HIGHLY COMMENDED IN THE BRITISH RECORDS ASSOCIATION’S JANETTE HARLEY PRIZE 2020:
The War Wounds of Sir Thomas Fairfax
Looking back on his military service during the Civil Wars, Thomas 3rd Lord Fairfax penned his Short Memorials during the 1660s. The manuscript originals survive among the Fairfax Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. Many years after his death, they were edited and published in defence of his reputation by his cousin Brian. Together with evidence from wartime newsbooks and pamphlets, they provide significant detail about the wounds that Fairfax and many of his close comrades received during their wartime service in the northern campaigns of 1642–45. In this blog, Andrew Hopper chronicles Fairfax’s many wounds, ailments and narrow escapes, suggesting something of their political and cultural significance. Thanks to the kindness of Tom Fairfax, cousin of Nicholas, the current Lord Fairfax, the National Civil War Centre are able to display the wheelchair of the parliamentarian commander-in-chief as one of their star exhibits. Of a striking size and formidable in appearance, it was the showpiece of the Centre’s ‘Battle-Scarred’ exhibition in 2016–2019. It serves as a very physical reminder that civil-war commanders were expected to lead from the front and expose themselves to danger in order to inspire their troops. During the 1660s, despite being scarcely fifty, Fairfax resorted to this wheelchair because of ill-health and the many war wounds that he carried with him. In his Short Memorials, Fairfax was meticulous in acknowledging the hand of God’s providence in explaining his unlikely survival of so many military engagements. His good fortune is magnified when it is considered the dangers he faced and how many times he was wounded. On top of this, Fairfax was quite a sickly man. The fevers he endured during his brief military education in the Low Countries in 1629 frequently recurred, including soon after his marriage to Anne Vere in 1637. Fearing another recurrence of his son’s ill health, Ferdinando, 2nd Lord Fairfax, withheld permission for him to serve against the Irish rebels, despite Sir Thomas’s pleading that the ‘miserable condition our neighbours of Ireland are in doth much affect me’ (Bodleian MS Fairfax 32, fo. 43). On 4 January 1642, Sir Thomas’s mother-in-law, Mary, Lady Vere, congratulated Ferdinando on the wisdom of this decision: ‘I think you did exceeding well to stay him from Ireland. He owes himself more here, if there should be occasion: & this winter is a most extreme cold one: he is to me as my own’ (Bodleian MS Fairfax 32, fo. 19). Once hostilities commenced, it did not take long for Fairfax to receive his first wound. The London press reported him wounded in the head in only his second engagement, defending his quarters at Wetherby from a surprise attack by horse and dragoons under Sir Thomas Glemham on 25 November 1642 (BL, Thomason E.128, Speciall Passages, no. 16, 22–29 November 1642, pp. 135–6). Caught unawares and not fully dressed, Fairfax recalled that he led his court of guard consisting of 2 sergeants and 2 pikemen to fight off a charge by Sir Thomas Glemham and 6 or 7 of his officers. The royalist Sir Henry Slingsby recorded ‘every one had his shot at him, he only making out at them with his sword’. If their aim had been better, Fairfax’s military career would have been over before it had scarcely begun. These 4 foot soldiers had likely saved his life, for as Slingsby pointed out, Fairfax was driven back ‘under the guard of his pikes’ (Daniel Parsons, ed., The Diary of Sir Henry Slingsby of Scriven, 1836, p. 83). An insertion in the margin by his cousin, Brian Fairfax, remarked that one of these soldiers ‘had a pension for his life till 1670’ (Short Memorials, 1699, p. 6). If this pension had been granted by the West Riding quarter sessions, it would have been illegal during the 1660s and the recipient would have risked imprisonment by collecting it. This raises the intriguing possibility that if the pension was paid after 1660, it might have been done so privately, in gratitude by Fairfax himself. The royalists only withdrew from Wetherby when another of Fairfax’s soldiers accidentally dropped a match into a barrel of gunpowder, causing them to believe (wrongly), that the parliamentarians had deployed artillery (Bodleian MS Fairfax 36, fo. 5). On 13 December 1642, Fairfax had another lucky escape when his horse collapsed, having been shot under him during a cavalry raid on royalist quarters at Sherburn-in-Elmet (Bodleian MS Fairfax 36, fo. 6; BL, Thomason E.83, A True Relation of the Fight at Sherburn in the County of Yorke, 16 December 1642, pp. 1–2). On 30 March 1643, Fairfax was fortunate again to escape into Leeds after his defeat on Seacroft Moor by Sir George Goring, during which Fairfax’s cornet was captured and the autobiographer, John Hodgson, then an ensign was also wounded, presumably defending his colours. Two months later, during his successful assault on Wakefield on 20 May, Fairfax was again almost captured when he became temporarily separated from his men riding through the streets. Fairfax received his second wound on 2 July 1643 during a sharp cavalry engagement in Selby market place, whilst protecting his father’s army’s retreat from Leeds to Hull. He later recalled: ‘I received a shot in the wrist of my arm, which made the bridle fall out of my hand, which being among the nerves and veins, suddenly let out such a quantity of blood, that I was ready to fall from my horse.’ He seized the reins with his sword hand and got clear of the melee, which allowed his soldiers to lay him down on the ground ‘almost senseless’ until ‘my surgeon came seasonably & bound up my wound, & so stopped the bleeding’. After only a quarter of an hour’s rest, he mounted up, and remained in the saddle for another 20 hours until he arrived in Hull ‘having lost all even to my shirt, for, my clothes were made unfit to wear with rends & blood which was upon them’ (Bodleian MS Fairfax 36, fos. 9–10). If he had been wearing a steel bridle-arm to protect his rein hand, as was customary for civil-war cavalry, this might have carried further metal into the wound. A bridle-arm from the Fairfax collection survives on display in the National Civil War Centre, again on loan thanks to the kindness of Tom Fairfax, which suggests that the wound healed well enough not to inhibit him from wearing this armour during future engagements. His third wound came a year later, ‘a cutt in my cheeke’, during his first cavalry charge at Marston Moor on 2 July 1644. The royalist polemicist, John Crouch later jibed that Fairfax was by this wound ‘marked for a rogue’, intending to undermine his gentility by comparing him to plebeian felons whose faces could be judicially maimed (BL, Thomason E.560, A Tragi-Comedy, called New-market-fayre, 1649, p. 5). Many of Fairfax’s cavalry officers were killed early in the battle by royalist musketry. Fairfax’s Short Memorials reflected: ‘The captain of my own troop was shot in the arm. My cornet had both his hands cut [likely defending the colours], that rendered him ever after unserviceable. Captain Micklethwaite, an honest, stout man was slain and scarce any officer which was in this charge, which did not receive a hurt. Major Fairfax, who was major to [John Lambert] had at least 30 wounds whereof he died after he was abroad again and good hopes of his recovery.’ But even more saddening than Major Fairfax’s short-lived revival was the loss of Sir Thomas’s younger brother, Colonel Charles Fairfax ‘who, being deserted by his men, was sore wounded, of which in 3 or 4 days he died.’ Fairfax acknowledged God’s goodness to him that he himself had come away comparatively unscathed, despite being unhorsed, struck to the ground, and again separated from his men. Once again, his horse had been shot from under him (Bodleian MS Fairfax 36, fo. 13; BL, Thomason, E.2, A More Exact Relation of the Late Battell neer York, 17 July, 1644, p. 7). The following month, Fairfax received his fourth and most dangerous wound while directing the besiegers of Helmsley Castle. At considerable range, Fairfax ‘received a dangerous shot in my shoulder and was brought back to York’, leaving ‘all, for some time being doubtful of my recovery’. This required 3 months to convalesce and may possibly have deterred him from wearing a back and breast plate thereafter (Bodleian MS Fairfax 36, fo. 13; BL Thomason E.254, Perfect Occurrences of Parliament, no. 4, 30 August–6 September 1644, sig. D2r). As Thomas lay recovering, his cousin Sir William Fairfax was mortally wounded in the Battle of Montgomery on 18 September 1644. One newsbook claimed that by refusing to treat, he was wounded 12 or 13 times. He died 16 hours later, his last words a request for Sir William Brereton to look after his widow and children (BL Thomason, E.10, The Kingdom’s Weekly Intelligencer, no. 73, 17–24 September 1644, p. 588–9; BL Thomason, E.10, The Weekly Account, no. 56, 18–24 September 1644, p. 448; BL Thomason, E.10, The London Post, no. 5, 24 September 1644, p. 8). Despite having just lost his son second son at Marston Moor and with his eldest son lying dangerously wounded, Ferdinando greeted the news of the ‘mortal wounds of my dear nephew’ with Godly stoicism: ‘blessed be God, the victory obtained over our enemies doth abate my sorrow for any particular friends’ (TNA, State Papers 16/503, fos. 260–1). No sooner had Sir Thomas recovered, he was directing operations at the siege of Pontefract Castle in January 1645. There, he ‘was lately in great danger of being shot by a cannon bullet from the castle, which came between him and Colonel Forbes; the waft of it felled Sir Thomas to the ground, and spoiled one side of the Colonel’s face and eyes’. Forbes survived this terrible injury and was nicknamed ‘Blowface’ thereafter (BL, Thomason E.24, Mercurius Civicus, 9–16 January, 1645, p. 790). After he travelled southward to assume command of the New Model Army, Fairfax continued to place himself in the forefront of the fighting. He was fortunate at Naseby, where he ‘received not the least wound; though he engaged bareheaded’ (BL, Thomason, E.288, A More Particular and Exact Relation of the Victory obtained by the Parliaments Forces under the Command of Sir Thomas Fairfax, 19 June, 1645, p. 2). However the wounds that he sustained in the northern campaigns continued to trouble him, reminding us that the ‘recovery’ of maimed soldiers from their wounds was rarely total. He wrote to his father from Chard on 8 October 1645: ‘I am exceedingly troubled with rheumatism and a benumbing coldness in my head, legs and arms, especially on that side I had my hurts. It hath pleased the Lord to help me through much extremities, and I trust He will lay no more on me than He will enable me to bear.’ Fairfax was indeed conscious that God had protected him through many dangers: ‘The mercies I have received ought to stop all complaints in His service’ (Bell, Fairfax Correspondence, vol. 1, p. 251). By 1646 Fairfax had developed a kidney stone. Like many soldiers sent there from London’s military hospitals, in August 1646 Fairfax took the waters at Bath to try to ease his condition. He visited again in July 1659 (BL, Additional MS 10114, fo. 49; BL, Additional MS 71448 fos. 48, 50). He enjoyed another narrow escape at the Battle of Torrington on 16 February 1646, when he acknowledged to his father ‘God’s great mercy to me’ after 80 barrels of powder blew up inside a church showering down ‘great webs of lead’ which ‘fell thickest’ onto the ground around him, killing one of his lifeguard’s horses (Bell ed., Fairfax Correspondence, vol. 1, p. 285). During the political entanglements that followed the First Civil War, Fairfax was often accused by his Army’s enemies at Westminster of pretending to be sick at convenient moments. In April 1647, in the midst of his army’s protests over pay and indemnity, he sought medical treatment in London. That autumn, illness prevented him from chairing most of the Putney Debates, until towards their end on 5 November 1647. His chaplain, Joshua Sprigge remarked that Fairfax continued to suffer ‘some infirmities contracted by former wounds’ (Anglia Rediviva, 1647, p. 42), but these seemed not to trouble him during battle. On 1 June 1648, enduring great pain from gout, Fairfax led his soldiers in a furious assault on Maidstone. He was ill again during Pride’s Purge in December 1648, and unable to meet MPs imprisoned by his Army. On top of his illnesses and recurring pain from his wounds, it is likely that from 1649 Fairfax was also troubled with bouts of depression and melancholy over his failure to prevent the King’s execution. The accounts of Fairfax’s army headquarters from December 1646 show him dispensing generous gratuities to maimed soldiers, war widows and refugees from Ireland, some of whom importuned repeatedly for relief. (Ethel Kitson and E. Kitson Clark, ‘Some civil war accounts’, in Miscellanea, Thoresby Society, 11, 1904, pp. 137–235). Perhaps Fairfax was able to empathise in these cases because of his own wounds and bereavements. He considered wounds in service to a cause conferred honour on their bearers and were markers of God’s favour. This could be turned to political purposes. Fairfax commanded widespread respect among parliamentarians, not just because of his military successes, but because his sacrifices in the cause were so physically obvious. In the Protectorate Parliament on 3 February 1659, Sir Arthur Hesilrige proclaimed that the New Model was ‘the best army that ever was in the world’ and used the physical example of Fairfax’s wounds to remind MPs to take good care of it: ‘This noble Lord that sits by me, Lord Fairfax; I bless God that he, having received so many wounds, now sits by my right hand’ (J.T. Rutt, ed., The Diary of Thomas Burton, Esq., London, 1828, vol. 3, p. 56). In December 1659, Fairfax led an uprising in favour of General Monck that seized York, but his kidney stones and gout now forced him to direct proceedings from his coach rather than on horseback. All considered, it is little wonder that Fairfax was resorting to this wheelchair during his final years. His cousin Brian remembered him sitting in it ‘like an old Roman, his manly countenance striking awe and reverence into all that beheld him’ (BL, Egerton MS 2,146 fo. 38). The National Civil War Centre would like once again to thank the Fairfax family for having loaned the wheelchair (along with other important artefacts owned by the general), so that it can be kept for public view as a reminder of the terrible costs of war to the human body. It also bears witness to the extraordinary story of Fairfax’s ultimate survival through so many dangers in this harrowing conflict. Increasingly confined to it, he spent his final years reading, writing and making notes from sermons. He died, aged just 59, of a fever in his home at Nun Appleton, 9 miles southwest of York, on 11 November 1671. During the last morning of his life he called for his Bible. As his eyes grew dim he recited the forty-second psalm (BL Egerton MS 2146, fo. 38), which includes the penultimate verse: 'As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach mee: while they say dayly unto me, where is thy God?' (Authorised Version, 1611). Fairfax's will directed his burial be conducted ‘in such a manner as may be convenient and decent rather than pompous’. It also directed that John Denonley and his wife Elizabeth enjoy their farm rent-free for life, on account of John ‘having received a maim in my service disabling him to earn his living’ (Markham, A Life of the Great Lord Fairfax, p. 445). Further Reading Andrew Hopper and Philip Major (eds), England’s Fortress: New Perspectives on Thomas, 3rd Lord Fairfax (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014). Andrew Hopper, ‘Black Tom’: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007). John Wilson, Fairfax: A Life of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, Captain-General of all the Parliament’s forces in the English Civil War, Creator and Commander of the New Model Army (New York, 1985). Mildred Ann Gibb, The Lord General: A Life of Thomas Fairfax (London, 1938). Clements R. Markham, A Life of the Great Lord Fairfax (London, 1870). Robert Bell (ed.), The Fairfax Correspondence: Memorials of the Civil War, 2 vols (London, 1849). Brian Fairfax (ed.), Short Memorials of Thomas Lord Fairfax (London, 1699).
They also served
The Civil War Petitions project team frequently agonises over whether to include or reject individuals (or their relations) who were involved in the conflict but not technically soldiers. This is rather redolent of the conundrum faced by Winston Churchill’s government in 1944, when deciding whether or not civilians and home-based service personnel should be awarded the 1939-43 Campaign Star (later designated the 1939-45 Star). David Appleby shows in this blog that soldiers were certainly not the only ones killed or wounded during the Wars in the Three Kingdoms. Most of the individuals named below have not made it into our database for one reason or another, but they are at least commemorated in this blog. As Eduard Wagner wrote in European Weapons and Warfare, ‘provisions, ammunition and other military supplies were indispensable to any army’. A large army could have as many as 200 supply wagons, stretching for several miles along the road. Care had to be taken in seeking out the best routes for the wagon train, and protecting it from the enemy. It was vital to have a competent wagon-master-general, as well as drivers, smiths, carpenters and wheelwrights. Wagner gives the impression that drivers were hired during the European wars, but documents unearthed by our project team show that waggoneers were very often conscripted, and their wagons and teams summarily requisitioned. John Griffythes was impressed in Pattingham, Staffordshire, to serve as a driver during the Bishops’ Wars. Sometime during the campaign, he was kicked by a cavalry trooper’s horse, and had to be invalided home. Surgeons pronounced Griffythes’ shattered leg to be incurable, and being unfit for work he became dependent on parish charity. Pattingham’s leading parishioners helped him petition the county Justices in April 1642. The parishioners optimistically claimed that he was a maimed soldier, despite the fact that he was clearly a non-combatant. The Justices generously agreed to treat him as such, ordering an immediate gratuity of £5, and a county pension as soon as there was a vacancy in the pensioner list. Pattingham submitted a further petition to the Epiphany Sessions in January 1643, complaining that Griffythes had not yet received his promised gratuity, much less a pension. The Bench agreed that the ‘the poor man’ should be paid his arrears, plus an extra £3 for the year to come. However, a year later Griffythes petitioned to complain that he had still not received any money. This time the Justices pleaded poverty: Staffordshire’s economy was now being ravaged by the First Civil War, and the county’s Treasurers for Maimed Soldiers had ‘no more moneys in their receipts than to pay the pensions that are already being paid.’ There is no evidence that Griffythes was ever paid. [Staffordshire Record Office, Q/SR/250, fol. 11; /254, fols. 19r, 19v, 20r-23, 21; Q/SO/5, fols. 95, 117, 146, 147.] Whereas John Griffythes was variously described as a servant and a tenant farmer, George Rolfe of Leyton, Essex (who featured in an earlier blog) ran a business as a carrier. In 1643, Rolfe’s wagon and horses were requisitioned for the Earl of Essex’s supply train, as the parliamentarian general made preparations to relieve Gloucester. Rolfe’s team was used to carry ammunition, with all the dangers that entailed. The fact that the wagon was broken and the horses killed at the first battle of Newbury suggests that they were lost in an explosion [Essex Record Office, Q/SO1, fols. 163, 168]. An engineer’s job similarly included handling hazardous materials. During many civil-war sieges they were called upon to construct explosive devices such as ‘pagans’ and ‘petards’, placing the latter against the walls and gates of enemy strongholds. On the other side of those walls, engineers had designed formidable fortifications, even for small garrisons, incorporating all the deadly innovations of the early modern Military Revolution. Experienced military engineers were therefore worth their weight in gold, both in an offensive and defensive capacity. John Hooper, Colonel Hutchinson’s chief engineer at Nottingham (who appears in our database as a signatory to several payments to Nottinghamshire war widows), was described by Lucy Hutchinson as ‘an ingenious fellow’. The case of Leonard Crast shows that engineers ran the same risks as regular soldiers during sieges. In April 1645 Crast petitioned the Hertfordshire parliamentary county committee for money to fund his return to London, on the grounds that he been wounded in the head in Parliament’s service [TNA SP28/232, fol. 720]. Sir John Gell and the Derbyshire parliamentary county committee certainly considered that their engineer, Edward Lions, should be treated like a soldier, as in August 1645 they agreed to pay him thereafter as if he were ‘a gentleman of the pike’ [TNA SP28/226, fols. 195, 217]. Lions had almost certainly supervised Gell’s assault pioneers as they dug trenches and mines under the foundations of Wingfield Manor during the parliamentarian siege of the place in August 1644. In the course of these excavations at least one of the conscripted pioneers – Anthony Hoades of Wirksworth – was ‘unhappily shot to death’ by the royalist defenders. However, it would be another three years before the Derbyshire committee awarded his widow a gratuity of £2, pending consideration of her claim for a war widow’s pension [TNA SP28/226, fols. 244, 500]. The petition of Henry Colier of Allestree, Derbyshire, shows that even duties behind the lines entailed a certain amount of hazard. Colier was a saltpetreman, who collected and processed the saltpetre in order to help supply the parliamentarian garrison of Stafford with gunpowder. Years later, in 1652, Colier claimed that the ‘great and hot labour’ involved in the process had caused his foot to become so badly infected that he had lost his leg, leaving him unable to provide for his wife and three children. The Civil War Petitions database contains details of many surgeons and physicians who worked to cure maimed soldiers during the conflict. The rules of war considered the persons of medical practitioners to be inviolate, as they habitually treated the wounded of both sides regardless of their own affiliation. We do not as yet have any conclusive evidence that any were wounded in combat, although it is noteworthy that William Edwards of Wrexham submitted a certificate to accompany his petition, just as a maimed soldier would. Pensions were certainly awarded to surgeons such as Peter Wray from Lewes, who had served in a parliamentarian regiment; and, after the Restoration, to John Corden of Herefordshire, who had served in a royalist one. Apart from the full-time nurses employed in Parliament’s military hospitals in London, many other women volunteered (or were coerced) to nurse sick and wounded soldiers. Very often these were poor widowed women, as parish officials always preferred to find paupers employment rather than pay poor relief. One widow who appears several times in the database is Rose Oldershaw of Nottingham, who over two years nursed Timothy Holt back to health. The cost of looking after wounded men involved significant time and money, as Ann Nixon intimated in a petition to the Nottinghamshire committee in 1646. If the patient was sick rather than wounded, infection was an obvious risk, as deadly diseases were prevalent in all armies. The smallpox epidemic which ravaged the New Model over the winter of 1645/6 is reflected in numerous documents submitted to county officials in Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. An entry for Thomas Lucy of Datchworth, Hertfordshire, not only shows that the smallpox was brought into civilians’ houses, but also that it was often lethal [TNA SP28/232, fol. 714]. Smallpox afflicted the New Model again in 1651, as units passed through Essex, leaving sick soldiers in the care of the local community [Essex Record Office, Q/SBa2/78]. Given the prevalence of death in both military and civilian communities at this time, clergymen had a vital role to play. Those who served as regimental chaplains experienced all the privations of soldiering, and many were unable to last for even one campaign. William Dolman, chaplain to Colonel Alexander Popham, features in the Civil War Petitions database, and hopefully more will be found. Unlike surgeons, clergymen were often in considerable danger from those enraged by their religious views: Dr Michael Hudson, a notorious royalist cleric, met a grisly end, as did Hugh Peter, the equally notorious parliamentarian army chaplain. Some clergymen took an active part in the fighting, such as Samuel Kem, who served as a parliamentarian officer, and preached with pistols in the pulpit. Laurence Palmer, the rector of Gedling in Nottinghamshire, not only raised a troop of horse for Parliament but led it into battle. Even clergymen who did not carry swords could still die on them: Richard Benskin, rector of Wanlip, was killed by parliamentarian troops during the storming of Shelford in 1645. Catholic priests were killed during (or more likely after) the taking of Drogheda and Wexford. Clergymen were often engaged in espionage work, a shadowy and largely thankless occupation. Then as now, spies were often tortured and executed if caught, and they were rarely acclaimed by their own side even if successful. Stewart Beale’s blog on Katherine de Luke has already told the story of a rare petition from a civil-war spy. More normally, we are left with curt notes of summary executions, and little more. Occasionally, however, a petition will lift the veil of anonymity. William Bramley and his five siblings were orphaned when their father was executed by royalists at Wingfield Manor, presumably either before or during the siege of 1645 [TNA SP28/226, fol. 246]. Spies may have met ignominious ends, but their work arguably required more nerve and commitment than normal soldiering, and there is no doubt that ‘they also served’. Further reading John Ellis, To Walk in the Dark: Military Intelligence in the English Civil War, 1642-1646 (History Press, 2011). Eric Gruber von Arni, Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Army Hospital Care during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum (Ashgate, 2001). Anne Laurence, Parliamentary Army Chaplains 1642-51 (Royal Historical Society, 1990). W. G. Ross, Military Engineering during the Great Civil War (reprint, Ken Trotman, 1984). Eduard Wagner, European Weapons and Warfare 1618-1648 (reprint, Winged Hussar Publishing, 2014).
The personal cost of war: injuries from firearms and their treatment during the Civil Wars
This is the final instalment in our trilogy of blogs on medical care written for us by Prof. Stephen M. Rutherford of the University of Cardiff. It combines the themes from the first blog examining the physical impact of gunshot wounds with the themes from the second blog examining surgical effectiveness and survivability, to uncover how surgeons during the Civil Wars treated wounds from firearms during the Civil Wars... In his treatise on gunshot wounds published in 1628, John Woodall remarked that ‘No wound of Gun-shott can be said to be a simple’, a maxim that was eloquently reinforced by the experiences of soldiers in the British Civil Wars nearly two decades later. A substantial number of petitions in this project refer to wounds from firearms (muskets, pistols and/or cannon shot), many of which were serious enough to cause long-lasting disability, such as the loss of use of a body part (or actual loss in some cases), or chronic debilitating pain in an injured part of the body. For example, the case of Michell Powell of Wrexham, Denbighshire (10 July 1660), whose petition reported that he had been ‘shott in the right arme though beinge partly cured then: yett in the p[ro]cess of tyme festered agayne & soe corrupted yt it grew to be a woolfe or gangrene … payinge the Chyrurgion for cuttinge the sayd wolfe forth & beinge still in a lamentable Condyc[i]on through deadnes of flesh: hauinge his veynes & nerues shrank & knotted through the dolor therof’. This petitioner was rendered unable to work as a result of this wound, leading to extreme hardship: ‘hindred yo[u]r poore petyc[i]oners callinge beinge a taylor & hauing 5 smal children soe yt his wyfe was constrained to wander about the towne to collect the charytie of all well disposed people’. This petition demonstrates the severity of the wound, but also its subsequent physical and financial impact. Some wounds from firearms could be very extensive. The petition of former royalist soldier, Edward Bagshaw, of Conisbrough, West Riding of Yorkshire (3 August 1668) recorded that he was shot in the side of the body, but also received ‘many wounds & cutts in the head in somuch that yo[u]r petic[i]on[e]r had nine bones taken out of his skull, And all that nourished yo[u]r petic[i]on[e]r for three weekes he rec[eiv]ed in att a hole in the side of his head …’. With many conflicts being assaults upon, or siege actions of, towns and cities, soldiers were not the only victims of injuries from firearms. An unusual petition came from Jane Merrick of Upton Bishop, Herefordshire (dated 1661 to 1662), who reported that she herself was wounded by a cannon ball: ‘yo[u]r pet[itione]r when the scotts beseiged this Citty was wounded by a Cannon shott in th legg when as she was a doeinge servis for this Cittie a makeinge vp a breach w[hi]ch was in Wigmore streete’. Jane was so badly injured that she needed to be carried to safety by ‘Mr Hugh Rodd’ (for more on Merrick, see this previous blog by Lloyd Bowen). The damage from bullets was not the only danger. The gunpowder itself was also a significant risk, as most muskets used in the Civil Wars were matchlock muskets, loaded with loose back powder, and fired using a piece of burning ‘match’ cord. Royalist surgeon Richard Wiseman recalled the case of a musketeer, whose store of gunpowder ignited while filling his bandoliers (a strap across the body from which hung small wooden bottles, each containing sufficient loose gunpowder to load and fire the musket once) with disastrous consequences: ‘A Souldier in the time of service being in the Fort-Royall at Worcester, hastily fetched his Bonnet full of Gun-powder; and whilst he was filling his Bandeliers, another Souldier carelesly bestrides it, to make a Shot at one of the Enemies which he saw lying perdue. In firing his Musket, a spark flew out of the Pan, and gave fire to the Powder underneath him, and grievously burned the Hands, Arms, Breast, Neck and Face of him that was filling his Bandeliers. And as to himself, he likewise was burned and scorched in all the upper part of his Thighs, Scrotum, the Muscles of the Abdomen, and the Coats of the Testicles to the Erythroïdes, so that the Cremasters were visible. And indeed it was to be feared, that, when the Escar should cast off from his Belly, his Bowells would have tumbled out.’ The majority of wounds from gunshot, however, were likely to have been caused by the damage made by the entry of the musket ball (variously also termed the ‘bullet’ in primary sources). See the first blog of this trilogy for details of musket ball damage. Gunshot wounds were no longer novel, by the time of the Civil Wars, and had been described in published works by surgeons such as Thomas Gale (1563), William Clowes (1588), and John Woodall (1628, 1655). However, one might argue that the duration of civil-war conflict provided unprecedented numbers of this wound type in the British Isles. The longevity of the published works of two civil-war surgeons, James Cooke and Richard Wiseman, demonstrates the significance of their procedures. Wiseman’s opus, Severall Chirurgicall Treatises (1676), was reprinted in five editions up to 1745, and his work was still cited as the leading authority on gunshot wounds in Ballingall’s Outlines of Military Surgery (1844). While some treatments were effective, equally there were some wounds that were beyond help, as Wiseman recounted regarding one unfortunate patient who had been treated by another surgeon: ‘In the Wars I was called to see a poor Souldier, who had his Arm shot off near the Shoulder. The bruised and shattered Stump seemed to his Chirurgeon to be gangrened, and accordingly he drest him with Aegyptiac. as a Gangrene: from which sharp Dressings the Wound gleeted, and, by reason of the Pain, inflamed. He had roared some days through the vehemency of that Pain. When I came to him, I saw a great Trembling of the Part, and a frequent twitching upwards of the Tendons and Musculous flesh in the Stump; also the Flesh in the whole Stump was of a whitish colour, as if it had been scalded.’ The state of this wound was critical, and on this occasion, despite trying to control the deterioration of the tissue, Wiseman noted ‘but it was too late, he died howling’. This unfortunate soldier might have survived had his early treatment been different, since within the petitions shared by this project, there is evidence of similar wounds that were survived. The first blog in this series describes the physical damage caused by a musket ball. But how was this damage treated? The ball would penetrate the body causing internal damage via ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’ cavities. However, unlike modern bullets, often there was no ‘exit wound’ from a musket shot, as the soft lead musket ball would potentially flatten or be diverted from its trajectory within the body. In this case, the surgeon would need to remove the bullet as part of the treatment. First the bullet needed to be found, a procedure best done by the surgeon inserting his finger, or a long metal probe, into the wound. The feel of metal touching metal was different to that of metal touching bone or sinew, and so a metallic bullet could be located using this method. On some occasions the outline of the embedded musket ball could be seen under the skin, in which case making a new incision in the patient was easier and safer for removal. Most commonly, the bullet was deep within the body tissues, and so needed to be removed the way it came in. Two forms of implement were used for retrieval. Firstly a ‘tirefond’ or ‘terebellum’ bullet extractor, which was a long thin implement, with a central baffle ending in a screw thread. The instrument could be inserted into the wound, and the screw-tip then drilled into the soft lead of the ball, before removal from the body. Alternatively, long forceps or pliers could be used, of which there was a wide diversity of shapes and modes of action, typically given descriptive names such as a ‘crow’s bill’, ‘crane’s bill’ and ‘lizard mouthe’ (Rutherford, 2018). A key consideration when removing the bullet was to also remove any fragments of clothing that were carried in when the bullet struck. As a musket ball was spherical, a small circle of cloth from the soldier’s clothing would potentially enter the wound. As Wiseman described, these fragments (from typically quite dirty clothing) could lead to serious consequences, including what we would now refer to as sepsis, or blood poisoning: ‘for the Bullet pierceth not any Part without carrying Rags along with it, which corrupt in the Wound … occasioning a prolonging the Cure’. Wiseman described two instances where contaminating rags caused problems for treatment. The first was the servant of a nobleman, shot by highwaymen, ‘yet was his Gun-shot more vexatious then all the rest, until I extracted the Bullet, and Rags carried in with it … I united and healed it in ten or twelve days, which I doubt would not have been cured in three months.’ Similarly, a wounded soldier, shot in the shoulder was treated by Wiseman: ‘After several unsuccessfull Applications, I made an Incision by the side of the Scapula into the Cavity, and pulled out the Rags that had been carried in by the Shot: and from that time all Accidents ceased, and the Wound cured soon after.’ Once the rags were removed, the wound could heal. Wiseman lamented that the lack of removal of rags from the wound would lead to poisoned wounds. He noted that ‘while any of the Rags remain in the Wound, it will never cure: but the extraneous bodies drawn out, there is little difficulty in the healing these Simple Wounds’. Once the wound was cleared of the bullet and any rags or contaminants, the bullet hole itself needed to be closed. This could either be done by means of a suture (a stitch), a ligature (tying off a wound using a thread or bandage), or cauterisation (burning of tissue). Cauterisation was a debatable activity, with some practitioners from the sixteenth century onwards arguing that it did more harm than good. But it is clear from published surgical treatises that reference the civil-war period, that cauterisation was still common practice. The use of an ‘actual’ cautery was most common (an iron structure which was heated in a fire), although the use of hot oil was also practiced, especially in previous decades, although Ambroise Paré of France argued against this particular practice. Cauteries had a c.12 inch long metal shaft ending in a specific shape (either a sphere, olive shape, rounded bar, or a flat disk), depending on the requirements of the wound. Cauterisation helped both seal and sterilise the open wound, but the after effects of the severe burn could potentially be as dangerous as the wound itself. Other methods for treating the wound were employed such as what is now termed ‘delayed primary closure’ (discussed in my previous blog), as well as poultices and ointments designed to encourage natural cleansing of the wound (a term referred to as ‘proper digestion’). The production of pus was seen as a good result, and indicative of wound healing. One of the most unusual of these digestives was a salve named ‘Oleum Catellorum’ (‘Oil of Puppies’). An ointment made by boiling newly-whelped puppies in lily oil, along with earthworms that had been clarified in white wine. Once boiled and strained, the liquid was mixed with terabinth (turpentine), and the resulting salve could be applied to a wound. How effective this salve was is not certain (and, ethically, is not something that we can test)! However, what is interesting is that the same recipe was reported as effective by both Ambroise Paré (who himself gained it from a colleague) in the 1500s and a century later by Richard Wiseman. These two authors regularly evidenced disdain of methodologies that they felt did not work. Gunshots might also shatter bones if the bullet struck them. The descriptions of fractures from gunshots shows that the authors of medical treatises had experience of the splintering effects of a bullet striking a bone. The remedy for this was advised to be the removal of the shattered pieces of bone, possibly leading to a resection of the limb (joining the two regions either side of the break back together), if the damage was not too severe. How successful this was is not commonly recorded, but its presence as a suggested treatment itself is telling. Wiseman described one extreme case of a soldier on a ship who, ‘had his right Arm extremely shattered about two fingers breadth, on the outside above the Elbow’. Wiseman recalled that ‘I would have cut it off instantly with a Razour (for the Bone being shattered, there needed no Saw:) but the man would not suffer me to meddle with his Arm’. Wiseman described in detail the treatment of the wound (Wiseman, pp. 427–9), which included setting the shattered arm using wetted pasteboard as a cast, ‘as it dried, stiffened, and retained its shape, preserving the Fracture in the position I left it, and that with a very slack Bandage.’ The recovery took several months, but the soldier retained his arm. If the limb could not be saved, then it would need to be amputated. This process is described in detail in Cooke’s Mellificium Chirurgie (1648). The flesh above the damaged region was cut using a sharp curved ‘dismembering’ knife, with the sharpened edge on the concave edge, so that the limb could be cut in a single movement. Cooke advised that this knife should be heated in a fire before-hand (which incidentally would have sterilised the blade). The flesh could then be pulled back, and the bone(s) severed using a sharp saw. Cooke advised that several saws should be kept to hand, in case of breakage, as speed was of the essence. Rather than cauterising blood vessels, Cooke advised that severed major vessels should be stoppered with small round buttons made of linen, and dipped in wine, then held in place by sutures or ligatures. The flesh of the stump could then be sewn shut, although the stress placed on the sutured region was possibly problematic. A better approach was to cut the flesh into pointed flaps which could be sewn against each other into a dome, but this was not adopted until later in the century. Amputation, usually undertaken while the patient was fully awake, was noted as being a last resort, but Cooke himself emphasised that ‘Dismembering is a dreadful Operation; yet necessary’. Survival of an amputation was likely to be proportionate to the prominence of the region amputated (records in later centuries note that survival was higher for removal of digits, hands/feet, or extremities of limbs, with lower survival for amputations of the thigh or upper arm). However, an extreme example of John Tinckler of Durham, a gunner at Hartlepool, who lost his sight and both his arms, and yet survived, as well as the prominence of severed limbs and hands or feet in the petitions from soldiers illustrates that it was possible to survive amputation. The impact of these wounds was not only physical, and causing long-term implications for a wounded man’s ability to support himself and family, but it also impacted the soldier by means of the cost of the surgeon’s care. Although in many cases surgeons were in the pay of regiments on both sides (Pells), local civilian surgeons would charge for their services in garrison towns or once a soldier had been discharged from service. The petition of Elizabeth Newum, Nottinghamshire (20 December 1645) described the cost of treatment of her late husband, Nathaniell, as ‘the sume of foure pounds or vpward to bee paid vnto the surgion and Pothecarie whom dayly come upon mee’. Elizabeth was being hounded for payment for her husband’s care, and reported being ‘forct to sell vp all that I have and soe I and my poore infant shall bee forced to beg’ in order to cover the cost of the treatment. Some treatments could last for many days, weeks, even months, and thus would incur considerable costs. Christopher Ellin of Black Notley, Essex, had reported in his petition to the Essex county sessions (1652) that he was shot with a musket ball during the Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), which struck him: ‘…in one of his Armes of which wound he hath lyen almost ever since under the Chirurgeons hands in the Savoy Hospitall at London.’ Another example, Tobye Ganbran’s petition to the City and County of Gloucester (17 November 1643) records that he was ‘sorely hurte and wounded with a mvskett shott, and thereby constrainde to lye vnder the Surgeons hands to be cured (this sixe weekes) and is not it perfectlie cured, w[i]th the Charge thereof hath cost him a greate deale of money, as vnto the Surgeon xx s., besides attendance, diett, and other necessaries.’. Similarly, the petition of Peter Green (27 August 1646) to the Nottinghamshire county committee noted that ‘y[ou]r poor petic[i]oner was lately wounded in the belly by a shot from the Enemye whereof hee lay many weekes under the Chryrugeons hand to his great paine & charges’. The petition records that ‘(notwithstanding the Chyrugeon is yet unsatisfied for his great Care & wonderfull Curre)’. It is noteworthy that these petitions, each of which were proximal to the date of the wound, refer not so much to the disabling impact of the injury, but rather to the financial charge incurred from several weeks of treatment, which the soldier was expected to pay. Wounds from firearms required particular treatments, and these treatments appear to have been reasonably effective. Unfortunately, it is not possible to clearly gauge the ratio of how many soldiers died outright compared to those who died from their wounds, or as a result of treatment, versus those who survived. But there were clearly effective methods for dealing with some quite extreme injuries. The existence of petitions from maimed victims of gunshots many decades after the wound was inflicted, shows that seventeenth-century soldiers could both survive, and live with, significant injuries from firearms. Primary Sources G. Ballingall, Outlines of Military Surgery (Edinburgh: A&C Black, 1844). W. Clowes, A Prooued Practise for all Young Chirurgians, concerning burnings with Gunpowder, and woundes made with Gunshot, Sword, Halbard, Pyke, Launce, or such other (Thomas Orwyn, 1588). J. Cooke, Mellificium Chirurgie, or, The Marrow of many Good Authours (London, 1655). J. Cooke, Supplementum Chirurgiae, or the supplement to the Marrow of Chyrurgerie (London, 1655). J. Cooke, Mellificium Chirurgiae, or the Marrow of Chirurgery much enlarged (London, 1676). T. Gale, Certain Works of Chirurgery, Newly Compiled (London, 1563). A. Paré (T. Johnson, translation), The Workes of that Famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey translated out of the Latine and compared with the French (London, 1634). A. Paré (W. Hammond, translation), The Method of Curing Wounds made by Gun-shot. Also by Arrowes and Darts, with their Accidents (London, 1617). R. Wiseman, Severall Chirurgical Treatises (London: Norton and Maycock, 1676). J. Woodall, The path-way to the Surgions Chest (London, 1628). J. Woodall, The Surgeons Mate or Military & Domestique Surgery (London, 1655). Secondary Works E. Gruber von Arni, Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Nursing, Medical Care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and their Families during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642-1660 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001). G. Keynes (ed.) The Apologie and Treatise of Ambroise Paré, 1585 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952). I. Pells, ‘Reassessing frontline medical practitioners of the British Civil Wars in the context of the seventeenth-century medical world’, The Historical Journal, 62:2 (2019), pp. 399–425. S. M. Rutherford, ‘Ground-breaking pioneers or dangerous amateurs? Did early-modern surgery have any basis in medical science?’, in I. Pells (ed.), New Approaches to the Military History of the English Civil War (Stroud: Helion and Company, 2016), pp. 153–85. S. M. Rutherford, ‘A new kind of surgery for a new kind of war: gunshot wounds and their treatment in the British Civil Wars’, in D.J. Appleby and A. Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), pp. 57–77.
Wounds, battlefield trauma, and their survivability in the British Civil Wars
This week's blog is the second in a trilogy of blogs which have been written for us by our colleague Professor Stephen M. Rutherford of the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University. His previous blog used examples drawn from Civil War Petitions to illuminate the nature of the physical damage inflicted on the body by gunshot wounds sustained during the Civil Wars. This instalment uses the evidence from Civil War Petitions to discuss the tricky issue of surgical effectiveness and survivability... Corporal John Barret of Captain Cotton’s Company, on the Parliamentarian side in a skirmish at Painswick, Gloucestershire, 1644, suffered a horrible fate at the hands of the enemy. Shortly afterwards, he reported to the Parliamentarian Governor of Gloucester, Colonel Edward Massey (signed Massie in the petition), who then endorsed his petition, that he had been set upon by two cavalrymen and six infantrymen, whereupon he was cut ‘downe and left for dead: and having receaved Tenne wounds of them [they] stript me starck nacked to the very skine’. He reported that ‘ever since that time I have layne bedrid under the Cyrurgions hands and now I being able to rise I can not for want of Cloths’. Colonel Massey confirmed that John had ‘receved 7 wounds in the head 5 of them therow the scull [one] cut in the backe (to the bons [bones]) with a pole axe his elbow cut off bons and all: his hand slitt downe betwine the fingers.’ We do not know whether Corporal Barret survived these wounds long-term, but he certainly survived long enough to make the petition, and described his effective treatment: ‘Mr Caradine the Cyerrugion [surgeon] afermeth who hath almost Cured them al (and very car[e]fuly and willingly he hath taken the pains to do it) how to satisfie him we know not he was never the man that asked us a farthing.’ The extent of Corporal Barret’s wounds were extreme – including scalping the skull down to the bone, as well as a bone-deep cut in the back, several other wounds, and the loss of an arm. The fact that he did not die on the battlefield is remarkable, but the fact that he survived long enough to petition the Governor for clothes and means to repay the surgeon show clearly the capability of surgeons in the British Civil Wars. The injuries treated by Mr Caradine were more extreme than some modern day military wounds, and yet he lived to tell the tale. Surgeons and physicians in the early modern period have gained a reputation in the popular mind as savage butchers with little or no understanding of medicine. However, recent historiography in this area – especially the work of Ismini Pells on Civil War military surgeons (Pells, see also Rutherford, 2016 and 2018) has highlighted that surgeons in this period did undertake procedures that had substantial merit in biomedical terms. Indeed many of the procedures pioneered in this period are still in use in modern military medicine today (Rutherford, 2018). Far from being unskilled and ineffective, there is evidence of early modern surgeons practicing a form of ‘Evidence-based Medicine'. That is using empirical evidence of their experiences and reports to guide and refine medical practice. Such practitioners included Ambroise Paré, sixteenth-century surgeon to the Kings of France, James Cooke, Parliamentarian surgeon during the Civil Wars, and Richard Wiseman, personal surgeon to Charles Prince of Wales, and later Sergeant Surgeon to him as King Charles II. The following video demonstrates the extent to which a cheap sword, quality sword, and dagger could injure a human limb (the video uses a leg of meat as an equivalent substitute): From this video you will see that even a cheap, mass-produced sword wielded by an inexperienced swordsman, could potentially cut several inches into an unprotected limb. A heavier, better quality sword was capable of a cut of 10-15cm in depth, and about 20cm in width – easily sufficient to sever a limb or cut into an unprotected skull. Battlefield archaeology from earlier conflicts, such as the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire (1461), or the Battle of Visby in Sweden (1361), display numerous examples of severed limbs and cuts deep enough to slice or shatter bone. Even if the limb was not shattered, the cut would be deep enough to make repair difficult or potentially impossible. The challenge to a military surgeon, therefore, was considerable. Without the proper medical records it is not possible to determine the survival rate of injuries suffered by Civil-War soldiers. What can be inferred, however, is some degree of effectiveness of surgical procedures from the evidence of the extent of wounds survived by Civil-War soldiers. In the archaeological finds mentioned above, there were examples of skeletons of persons surviving quite catastrophic injuries (severed or broken limbs, sword cuts deep enough to scar the bone, for example) long enough for those injuries to heal and the bones to fuse or produce new growth. The petitions uncovered and transcribed as part of this project give some valuable insights into both the wounds suffered by soldiers (and some civilians) in the Civil Wars, and also the extent to which these wounds were potentially survivable, after effective medical care. For example, the certificate for William Gray of Braintree, Essex, (8 April 1657) reported that he was ‘very much Debilitated in his limbs’, and that his ‘Legge hath beene brocken in many peeces’, and yet appears to have healed sufficiently for it not to need to be amputated. Another petitioner, John Ellis, of Dewsbury, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, reported (October, 1674) that he had received ‘received severall Wounds in severall partes of his body’, claiming that these had made him ‘impotent, lame and [decrepid] not able to worke for a livelihood’. William Sudbury of Woodnewton, Northamptonshire was reported (while requesting an increase to his pension, Trinity, 1674) to have received ‘13 wounds in his head & body very dangerous, but also the fingers of one of his hands cut [off]’. These substantial injuries disabled William from making a living, but the fact that he was able to survive such extreme damage to his body is quite remarkable. David ap Jevan of Bersham of Denbighshire (certificate dated 20 September, 1663) also had digits cut from his (left) hand, sufficient wounding to stop him being able to make a living for himself, but a wound that he survived for at least 20 years after his initial injury (at Holt Bridge in November 1643). These would have been wounds received on a dirty battlefield, and which would have been treated either in situ, or close by at a lodging. The patient would need to survive potentially catastrophic blood loss and shock at the moment of injury, and then also survive the potential infection of the wound at a time long before the discovery of antibiotics. A review of the approaches adopted by early modern surgeons (in particular military surgeons) highlights that there was a good level of understanding about suturing or bandaging of wounds, and the control of post-operative infection. There were a range of different suture methods, described by authors, such as Wiseman and Cooke, each with a specific wound type to be used for. There was also a range of ligatures (use of bandages to seal wounds) adopted as an alternative approach. Antibacterial agents, such as alcohol or posca (a water/vinegar mix) were used on equipment and bandages. Egg albumen or honey (the latter's high-sugar concentration being a natural antibacterial agent) were used as salves to keep the wound healthy. Even though in the seventeenth century there was no understanding of the biology behind microbial infections, the surgeons were aware of the effectiveness of these approaches, and even disdainful of other, less-effective methods. The efficacy of many of their approaches has stood the test of time, and are still in use in modern medicine. For example, in the post-operative management of infections, a common strategy was to leave the wound un-sutured and open for several days, the tissue kept apart by a ‘tent’ (a roll of bandage inserted into the cut). The wound was left until the flesh was ‘like flesh long hang’d in the air’ (Wiseman, p. 428). This approach, termed in modern medicine ‘delayed primary closure’ is in common use today for the treatment of conditions such as appendicitis, compartment syndrome, and some military injuries, most recently in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq (Leininger, Rasmussen, Smith, Jenkins and Coppola). This approach for encouraging the body to treat its own infection (the theory - which even today is not confirmed - is that the open wound encourages the flow of lymph, which in turn encourages that accumulation of white blood cells and stimulates the immune response at the wound site) is seen in medical manuals from the mid-sixteenth century, and in manuals from numerous major conflicts over the subsequent centuries (Rutherford, 2016). Recovery from extreme injuries was slow and uncertain. Details of the extensive hospital care provided to some soldiers in the Civil Wars have been researched extensively by Eric Gruber von Arni, who revealed what was often an organised and systematic process of patient care, not least of which was the high calorific intake for patients, to aid their recovery. But the experience recorded in the certificate for Thomas Wayte of Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire (March 1668) illustrates the extensive nature of this recovery period. It was reported that Thomas ‘resaiued [received] such desp[e]rate wounds, that he lay most dangerously on them for three or foure years together.’ This long-term need for care, and the requirement for support of disabled soldiers after their recovery, was frequently down to their families and community, as Ismini Pells and David Appleby have discussed in their blogs on this website: ‘Old Wives’ Tales: Long-term Medical Care during the English Civil Wars’ and ‘Members of one another’s miseries’: care in the community during and after the Civil Wars’. It is clear from these petitions that soldiers did survive catastrophic and life-changing injuries, often living with them for decades after they were inflicted. The physical and mental challenges of living with disabilities caused by traumatic injuries would have been considerable. It is remarkable, however, that soldiers with such extensive injuries survived at all, and a re-evaluation of the medical practices, and their effectiveness, of early modern surgeons has the potential to reveal significant insights into the development of surgical procedures, and the extent of their medical validity. It is a trope that ‘war drives innovation’, and this may well be true for the pioneering surgeons and medical practitioners in the British Civil Wars. One wound type, mentioned in my previous blog, that was of major significance in the Civil Wars was injury from gunshots. Injuries from such wounds were another challenge entirely, and the third blog in this series will look at the approaches taken for their treatment. References and further reading For further reading into the practitioners of medicine and surgery in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an excellent resource is the Early Modern Medical Practitioners Project at the University of Exeter. This project has a range of different foci on early modern medicine, including cataloguing as many examples of named medical practitioners as can be identified. Primary Sources J. Cooke, Supplementum Chirurgiae, or the supplement to the Marrow of Chyrurgerie (London, 1655). J. Cooke, Mellificium Chirurgiae, or the Marrow of Chirurgery much enlarged (London, 1676). A. Paré (T. Johnson, translation), The workes of that famous chirurgion Ambrose Parey translated out of the Latine and compared with the French (London, 1634). R. Wiseman, Severall Chirurgical Treatises (London: Norton and Maycock, 1676). Secondary Works E. Gruber von Arni, Justice to the Maimed Soldier: Nursing, Medical Care and Welfare for Sick and Wounded Soldiers and their Families during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1642–1660 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001). B. E. Leininger, T. E. Rasmussen, D. L. Smith, D. Jenkins and C. Coppola, ‘Experience with Wound VAC and Delayed Primary Closure of Contaminated Soft Tissue Injuries in Iraq’, Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 61 (2006), pp. 1207-11. I. Pells, ‘Reassessing frontline medical practitioners of the British Civil Wars in the context of the seventeenth-century medical world’, The Historical Journal, 62:2 (2019), pp 399-425. S. M. Rutherford, ‘Ground-breaking pioneers or dangerous amateurs? Did early-modern surgery have any basis in medical science?’, in I. Pells (ed.), New Approaches to the Military History of the English Civil War (Stroud: Helion and Company, 2016), pp. 153–85. S. M. Rutherford, ‘A new kind of surgery for a new kind of war: gunshot wounds and their treatment in the British Civil Wars’, in D.J. Appleby and A. Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), pp. 57-77.
‘Manie dangerous woundes and shotts’: The physical impact of gunshot wounds in the British Civil Wars
It is a pleasure for Civil War Petitions to be able to introduce our first blog written by our scientist colleagues at the University of Cardiff, Michael J. Evans and Stephen M. Rutherford. Michael Evans is a fourth Year Medical Student at Cardiff University Medical School, and has an intercalated BSc in Biomedical Sciences (Anatomy). Professor Stephen Rutherford is a cell biologist, and Professor of Bioscience Education, at the School of Biosciences, Cardiff University RutherfordS@cardiff.ac.uk Their essay uses many examples drawn from the website’s petitions in order to illuminate the nature of the physical damage inflicted on the body by gunshot wounds sustained during the Civil Wars. At the Denbigh quarter sessions in 1663, Robert Mathewes [Mathew] of Vivod, Llangollen, reported that he ‘hath had manie dangerous woundes and shotts in the said service, w[hi]ch hath altogeather disinabled him, to work or labor, for his future subsistence’. A year later, the court heard the petition of Mathew Thomas of Ruthin, who had been in service for six years, and in that time had ‘lost the vse of his lymes [limbs] beinge shott Through his Thigh, Arme & body, ins besids many hurts, Cutts & bruses’. It was reported that as a result of the injuries. Mathew ‘doth languishe in a very sadd Condic[i]on & nott able to helpe himself’ or to support his wife and ‘many smale [small] Children’. Robert and Mathew were among the lucky ones who survived a gunshot injury in the Civil Wars, but did so at a terrible long-term cost to their personal wellbeing. The petition of Richard Taylor of Nottinghamshire (1646) also highlights the considerable physical, personal, and long-term cost of such injuries. Richard fought for Parliament at the second siege of Newark, and was ‘shott quite through the raignes [muscles] of his back, and tuckes [buttocks], in 7 places of his bodie beside’. Richard was under the care of a surgeon for 25 weeks, and in such a serious condition that he was ‘no way able to helpe himselfe, nor to turne him in his bed’. At the court, it was reported that Richard ‘hath still a rent 2 Inches long in his back; And he knoweth not whether euer hee shall be a sound man againe or not.’ Wounds caused by either a musket, carbine, pistol or cannon were often fatal – either on the battlefield, or soon after - as in the case of Nathaniell Newum of Nottinghamshire, whose wife Elizabeth petitioned in 1645, stating that her husband died four weeks after he was shot. The petitions in this project show that it was possible to survive severe injuries for many years. Yet we know relatively little about the actual effects of firearms from the Civil Wars on the human body. The most common firearm in the Civil Wars was the matchlock musket, a smooth-bore weapon, fired by black powder, and projecting a roughly spherical lead ball. The average musket ball used at the battle of Edgehill in 1642 had a diameter of 18.51mm and a mass of 37.9g (Miller, Allsop and Carr). A musket ball had an effective range of 50-180m (Eyers), although the impact of the ball on the target lessened as the range became more extreme. It is difficult to clearly measure the impact of a seventeenth-century musket ball on the human body, as ballistic tests using modern gunpowder and lead are not fully equitable to the historical situation. Modern gunpowder is more refined than the seventeenth-century equivalent, and modern lead is typically hardened by alloying with antimony. In order to investigate the potential impact of musket injuries, some useful comparisons can be made based on modern ballistics research, and surgical reports. Also it is possible to review modern pathology reports of injuries caused by replica historical weapons, as well as the descriptions of wounds from sixteenth and seventeenth-century surgeons themselves. A modern bullet (which is typically conical, and shot with a high velocity) behaves in a characteristic manner when it hits the human body. Fackler and Malinowski described this behaviour via four parameters: permanent cavitation, temporary cavitation, penetration, and fragmentation. Permanent cavitation is the damage caused by the bullet as it cuts through the tissue itself. The permanent cavity is usually quite narrow, but may become widened by pitching, yawing or tumbling of the bullet inside the body (often bullets will tumble so that they move base-first within the body). Temporary cavitation is caused by the sideways displacement of the tissues as the bullet passes – much like the wake caused by a boat moving through water. The temporary cavity is typically much wider than the permanent cavity, but also more transient. The damage caused by the temporary cavity is potentially greater than that of the permanent cavity, but is more difficult to identify after the bullet has passed. Penetration refers to the depth by which the bullet moves into (or through, and out of) the body. Often (but not always) the bullet will exit the body, typically causing a larger, more-ragged ‘exit wound’ as it leaves the tissue. Finally, fragmentation is common in bullet wounds, where either part or the whole of the bullet splits apart into smaller fragments, each of which will cause its own damage. Extensive work has been done identifying and cataloguing the effects of modern bullets in both human gunshot victims, and in animal or gelatin models. However, the research on the impact of soft spherical bullets, fired at low velocity, is limited. The few descriptions of modern injuries using black powder, smooth-bore firearms, shooting spherical balls, suggest that the permanent cavity is wider than the bullet itself, potentially due to some flattening of the ball by up to 1.5x the original diameter, as it strikes either soft tissue or bone (Scott et al). Flattening of the bullet, and the wide permanent cavity, could potentially lead to the ball changing direction inside the body. Richard Wiseman, former Sergeant Surgeon to Charles II, observed, in his 1676 surgical treatise, that: ‘It being wonderful to consider how these Shots do twirl about’ (Wiseman, p. 412). The size and depth of the permanent cavity is also fundamentally dependent on the tissue type and density that the bullet strikes. Of most danger to the permanent cavity, especially at the entry point of the wound, would be the rags of clothing taken in with the bullet as it penetrated. Such fragments of cloth, leather or armour would fester within the wound, and needed to be removed prior to any effective healing (Johnson, pp. 414-16; Wiseman, pp. 411-12). Indeed Wiseman describes one instance where he was required to reopen a wound to remove the infected materials from a feverish patient, before he could heal properly (Wiseman, p. 411). The temporary cavity, due to its transient nature, is more difficult to corroborate. Contemporary accounts do not refer to the temporary cavity, or its potential impact. Forensic studies of modern injuries with black powder weapons suggest a much wider temporary cavity as the bullet enters the body, than caused by a modern bullet (Dougherty and Eidt, pp. 403-407). However, the nature of these modern injuries from black powder weapons (most of which are either accidental or self-inflicted, and therefore typically from close quarters) are difficult to compare accurately to battlefield injuries sustained from musket or pistol balls. There is no mention of the temporary cavity in the contemporary surgical treatises, but this is unsurprising due to the transient nature of the temporary cavitation effect. Interestingly, fragmentation does not appear to be a common occurrence in black powder injuries. Possibly due to the shape of the ball, or the softness of the lead, the musket or pistol ball seems much more likely to deform than to fragment (Grosse Perdekamp et al). The low velocity of the projectile may also be a factor in the lack of fragmentation (Crane and Charters). This has implications for the internal damage caused by the bullet, as in many modern gunshot wounds, fragmentation increases the extent of internal injuries (Riva et al). The absence of such fragmentation in a seventeenth-century injury, might make the wound potentially more limited, possibly cleaner, and easier for the body to repair. There is certainly a dearth of references to fragmented bullets in the published medical treatises from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that feature gunshot wounds. While the absence of such references is not proof that fragmentation did not occur, reference to fragmentation is conspicuous by its absence. The penetrative ability of a bullet was potentially considerable, for example Sergeant-Major General Phillip Skippon, wounded by a musket shot at the battle of Naseby, suffered a severe wound, which struck him in the side, penetrating through his armour and deep into his body, requiring surgery and several months rehabilitation (Pells). Exit wounds were also described by contemporary surgeons. Ballistics tests with early modern firearms suggest that the increased weight of an early modern bullet, compared to the modern equivalent, would result in a substantial permanent cavity that offsets the low velocity of the shot (Krenn et al). However, an additional effect of the flattening of the ball appears to correlate with a reduced level of penetration of the bullet. It was therefore much less likely for a bullet to exit the body from a Civil-War firearm than a modern weapon. It was common for the ball to remain within the wound, requiring removal. Numerous commentaries in contemporary seventeenth-century medical treatises describe methodologies for removal of the bullet (Rutherford). The prevalence of instruments such as the ‘terebellum’ or ‘tirefond’ bullet extractor (a long instrument with a screw tip for drilling into the soft lead of the bullet in order to extract it), as well as diverse types of forceps used to grasp a bullet within the body, suggests that the need to extract a bullet from the body was common. However, it was also common not to extract the bullet from the body – either due to inaccessibility, or the risk of further damage. Provided there was no secondary infection, retaining the bullet would potentially be possible, with varying levels of impact on the quality of life. This was the case for Richard Justice of York, whose petition describes that the bullet had ‘remayned in his foot for the space of Two & Twenty yeares & more’. Similarly, John Reed of Yarm in the North Riding of Yorkshire retained a bullet within his shoulder up to (and presumably beyond) his petition to the North Riding quarter sessions in 1694 (at the age of 75). James Moore of Letwell, West Riding of Yorkshire, attested in 1699 (near the age of 80) that he had ‘he receiued many wounds in his head, especially one by a pistoll shott w[hi]ch bullet doth sitt in his neck, w[hi]ch is very apparent to be seene w[hi]ch is both painefull & very troublesome to him’, dating from the battle of Marston Moor, 55 years earlier. It is clear that firearms in the Civil Wars did cause injuries that are analogous to modern firearms, but with substantial differences regarding penetration, fragmentation, and the morphology of the wound. The wound was unlikely to be a small wound, likely to cause additional damage beside the passage of the bullet itself, very likely to either take clothing or other materials into the wound, and/or remain inside the body requiring removal. However, the evidence displayed in the petitions highlight that it was possible to survive quite extreme injuries gained during this conflict. Our second blog will investigate the methods by which Civil-War surgeons treated such wounds, and the long-term impacts of living with them. Further Reading D. P. Miller, D. Allsop and D.J. Carr, ‘The ballistics of seventeenth-century musket balls’, Journal of Conflict Archaeology, 14:1 (2019), 25-36. V. Eyers, ‘Ballistics of matchlock muskets’ (MSc Thesis, Cranfield University, 2006), pp. 29-33. M. L. Fackler and J. A. Malinowski, ‘The wound profile: a visual method for quantifying gunshot wound components’, Journal of Trauma, 25:6 (1985), 522-29. D. D. Scott, J. Bohy, N. Boor, C. Haecker, W. Rose, and P. Severts, ‘Colonial era firearm bullet performance: a live fire experimental study for archaeological interpretation’ (Modern Heritage Foundation: online publication, 2017): http://modernheritage.net/research.html. D. Sanchez, C. Epps and D. Taylor, ‘Estimating lead fragmentation from ammunition for muzzleloading and black powder cartridge rifles’, Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, 7 (2016); B. Karger and K. Teige, ‘Fatalities from black powder percussion handguns’, Forensic Science International, 98:3 (1988), 143-49. Richard Wiseman, Severall Chirurgical Treatises (London: Norton and Maycock, 1676). T. Johnson, The workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (1634) G. Fabritius Hildanus, Cista Militaris: or A Military Chest (London: W. Godbid, 1674), pp. 21–8. J. Browne, A Compleat Discourse of Wounds (London, 1678), p. 37. P. J. Dougherty and H. C. Eidt, ‘Wound ballistics: minié ball vs. full metal jacketed bullets - a comparison of Civil War and Spanish-American War firearms’, Military Medicine, 174:4 (2009), 403-07. M. Grosse Perdekamp, R. Braunwarth, J. Kromeier, H. Nadjem, S. Pollak and A. Thierauf, ‘Muzzle-loading weapons discharging spherical lead bullets: two case studies and experimental simulation using a skin-soap composite model’, International Journal of Legal Medicine, 127:4 (2013), 791-97. A. Crane and A. C. Charters, ‘Wounding mechanism of very high velocity projectiles’, Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, 16:6 (1976), 464-70. F. Riva, E. J. A. T. Mattijssen and W. Kerkhoff, ‘Rifle bullet deflection through a soft tissue simulant’, Forensic Science International, 291 (2018), 199-206. Ismini Pells, ‘ “Stout Skippon hath a wound”: the medical treatment of parliament’s infantry commander following the battle of Naseby’, in David J. Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), pp. 78-94. P. Krenn, P. Kalaus and B. Hall, ‘Material culture and military history: test-firing early modern small arms’, Material Culture Review, 42:1 (1995). Stephen Rutherford, ‘A new kind of surgery for a new kind of war: gunshot wounds and their treatment in the British Civil Wars’, in David J. Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), pp. 57-77.
‘For the dead fathers sake’: Orphans, Petitions, and the English Civil Wars
Orphanhood – the loss of one’s parents or parent, generally a father – was commonplace in early modern England. According to estimates by Ralph Houlbrooke, around half of the population could expect at least one of their parents to die before they reached the age of 25. The outbreak of Civil War in 1642 undoubtedly led to a marked increase in the number of children who were deprived of a parent, often at a relatively young age. The pitiful cries of fatherless children were a mainstay in the print produced by both sides, featuring alongside desolated towns and weeping widows as evidence of the cruelty of the enemy and the hardships wrought by war. In a previous blog post, Diane Strange has analysed the battles that occurred in the Court of Wards over the custody of war orphans who inherited land as tenants-in-chief of the king. But not all fatherless children were fortunate enough to be bequeathed an estate, however contested, and many found themselves facing significant poverty and hardship. The Parliament recognised that it had a duty to provide for the wives and children of its deceased servicemen – so-called ‘sword widows and sword orphans’ – and, under the terms of a 1647 ordinance, the wives and children of men killed in the Parliament’s service could apply to the justices of the peace at their local quarter sessions for financial relief. This post explores some of the petitions that were presented to county quarter sessions by, on the behalf of, or which featured Civil War orphans during the late 1640s and 1650s. These requests can be divided into broadly three categories – war widows’ petitions, those tendered by other adults (often relatives), and petitions that purported to be presented by the children themselves. By looking at examples of each type, this post illuminates some of the petitioning strategies that were deployed by different categories of claimant, as well as the treatment and care that was provided to children whose lives were disrupted by war. By far the most prevalent form of petitions featuring war orphans were those presented by soldiers’ widows. These women regularly referred, not just to the number and age of the children that they needed to support, but to their status as ‘orphans’. Mary Birch explicitly appealed to the Parliament’s commitment to provide for ‘poore widowes and Orphans whose fathers and husbands have lost theire lives in the states service’ [Wilts and Swindon History Centre A1/110/Michaelmas 1651, f. 187]. In a similar vein, Margaret Nicholls asked the Staffordshire justices to provide such relief ‘as the lawe alloweth for such widows and Orphans’. For these women, appeals to their poor, fatherless children were deployed in an attempt to establish their eligibility for relief under the terms of the 1647 ordinance, as well as to elicit sympathy and, ultimately, sufficient money for their plight. Indeed, in some areas, there is evidence to suggest that the payment of pensions to war widows was directly based on the needs of their children. In West Yorkshire, for example, some women were granted pensions to be paid until their youngest child was seven years old – seven being the age that children could usually expect to be apprenticed, and therefore removed from their mother’s care [West Yorks Record Office QS/10/12, f. 146, 262]. In his influential study of early modern poor relief, Steve Hindle has noted that orphans were generally regarded as ‘legitimate objects of pity’. By emphasising the condition of their children, widows attempted to combine this deep-rooted notion of desert with appeals to what they were owed as the families of men who had died for the Parliamentarian cause. Not all children who had lost their father in military service were left with a surviving parent, however badly off. In these cases, their plight might be brought to the attention of the quarter sessions either by more distant relatives or other members of the local community. Under the terms of the Elizabethan Poor Laws, care of orphaned children was the responsibility of lineal kin, and, as a result, many petitions featuring war orphans were presented by grandparents who found themselves struggling to meet this additional burden. Poised between the longstanding conditions of the Poor Laws and the new ordinances and acts of the 1640s, these documents often exhibit a curious intersection of established familial duties and petitioning conventions coupled with the emerging expectation that service for the state had engendered new entitlements. The elderly widow Joane Burt, for example, petitioned the Somerset quarter sessions for a ‘Pension or allowance’ on account of her extreme financial distress, caused, at least in part, by the death of her son, her daughter, her son-in-law, and the subsequent need to provide for her two orphan grandchildren. In many ways, her request was typical of petitions for poor relief throughout the seventeenth century: she emphasised her age, her inability to work, and her extreme hardship. But she also gave considerable space to an account of precisely how her sons had died. According to Burt, both had been killed fighting for the Parliament, one at the second siege of Taunton and the other ‘most cruelly hanged’ by the Royalists after the capture of Bridgewater. Though Burt didn’t explicitly appeal to the Parliament’s commitment to provide for Parliamentarian war orphans, she clearly anticipated that her sons’ fidelity was an important part of her claim, a de facto condition of desert to be considered alongside the more traditional criteria of habitation, necessity, and moral scruples. The experience of Civil War infused and re-shaped what it might mean to be a deserving claimant. While the duty to provide for a soldier’s dependents was a latent theme of Burt’s request, other petitioners were rather more explicit. Take, for example, Raphe Ravenscroft, from Middlewhich in Cheshire, who in 1647 applied to his local quarter sessions for financial relief [Cheshire Record Office, QJF 75/1, f. 46]. Like Burt, Ravenscroft was a grandfather, who, following the loss of two sons in the Parliament’s service, had been left with a small child to maintain, a task that had been rendered even more difficult owing to his various disabilities and the loss of all his money and goods at the hands of plundering Cavaliers. Yet as well as emphasising his need, Ravenscroft’s petition made a direct connection between the loss of the child’s father in the service of the state and a corresponding duty to provide relief. He requested: that the fathers losse may be redeemed to the child by a compassionate regard for her maintaynance and education [and that] some allowance from the publique may be allotted to sustayne his child who lost his life for the publique cause and this for the Lords sake. The statement at the end of the petition supported by nineteen of Ravenscroft’s neighbours expressed a similar sentiment, calling on the court to provide for ‘the poorman and little orphan even for the dead fathers sake who regarded nether father nor mother nor child nor life itself in comparison of the truth w[hi]ch he cheerfully and resolutly sealed with his dearest blood’. Ravenscroft’s son had died for the ‘public cause’, for ‘truth’, and for God, a sacrifice that placed an onus on the state’s local officials to provide for his dependents. Support was something that was owed, not just to the living child, but to her deceased father – it should be provided ‘for the dead fathers sake’, a duty to the living, but also to the dead. The note penned on the side of Ravenscroft’s petition, however, suggests that this sentiment was not one that was shared by the justices: it read, ‘if neither the Grandfather or any friends provide then the parish’. For the justices the duty to provide for poor orphans rested, first and foremost, with relatives and after that with parish officers, just as it had done since the early seventeenth century. This reluctance on the part of county justices to acknowledge war orphans as a particular category of claimant is also discernible elsewhere in the quarter session records. Humphrey Mackworth, an official in Denbighshire, referred to the 1647 act as the ‘act for reliefe of souldiers widdowes’, omitting orphans. Similarly, in Warwickshire in 1656 Thomas Burne, father-in-law of a recently deceased maimed soldier, applied to have this pension transferred to the soldier’s surviving child. The court refused, ‘the money being p[ro]perly payable’, they thought ‘to souldiers and their widdowes’ – once again, orphans were written out of the provisions of the 1647 act. The rhetorical power of orphans – ‘young and tender’, ‘fatherless’, ‘friendless’, ‘helpless’ – was not always matched by a desire to pay for their upkeep from county funds. This disparity may be attributed to the prevalence of orphans in the pre-Civil War era and the enduring expectation that these children were the responsibility of their surviving relatives or the parish in which they resided. Alternatively, it may have reflected a broader ambivalence among some officials over how far the entitlements that derived from loyal service were intergenerational: to what extent should children inherit rewards for the actions of their fathers? All the petitions discussed thus far were presented by adults who sought money either on the orphans’ behalf or for themselves to help cover the additional costs of raising these children. However, there are also a small number of petitions that were apparently presented, and narrated, by the war orphans themselves: ‘the humble petition of Henry Gravenor, a poore distressed Infant’ [Cheshire Record Office, QJF 83/3, f. 133], ‘the humble peticon of Frances Hughson daughter of Thomas Hughson late of Macclesfield affords[aid] shoemaker (deceased)’ [Cheshire Record Office 83/1, f. 148]. In part, this formulation might be regarded as a strategic choice, a way of emphasising the lack of support available from a child’s family or friends by rendering them entirely absent from the visible material of the petition – though we might also suspect that, like most petitioners, these children probably received a significant amount of help and advice from other members of the community. They certainly knew a surprising amount about the actions and military service of parents who had been killed while they were still in infancy. However, it may also be attributed to the age of these petitioners: though a subject’s age was rarely explicitly stated, careful reading suggests that these child petitioners were usually at least six or seven years old, sometimes more. Even Henry Gravenor, a self-proclaimed ‘poore distressed Infant’ was in fact probably at least ten, his father having been killed a whole decade earlier at the taking of Beeston Castle in 1645. Given that six or seven was the age that orphan children might usually expect to be apprenticed, and thus no longer pose such a significant financial burden, it is perhaps unsurprising that many of these child claimants laid considerable emphasis on their own inability to work. Frances Hughson, whose eyes had been damaged by a childhood episode of smallpox, explained that her eyesight had become ‘so tender and dimme’ that she was ‘altogether unable to do any things towards her livelihood’ [Cheshire Record Office QJF 83/1, f. 148], Randle Kemerley that he was not ‘of strength to get his living’ [Cheshire Record Office, QJF 77/2, f. 37]. Though their inability to work was integral to their claims, both Kemerley and Hughson nevertheless opened their requests with relatively detailed accounts of their fathers’ Civil War service and eventual deaths, at York battle [i.e. Marston Moor] and Lee Bridge, respectively. In so doing, they situated their personal misfortunes in the context of a broader national narrative, emphasising their identity not just as a poor, disabled, fatherless children, but as Parliamentarian war orphans. Though none of these children appealed directly to the provisions of the 1647 ordinance, their status as war victims who had suffered for the benefit of the Parliament and Commonwealth state was a central part of their requests and suggests the extent to which the wartime activities of a child’s parents remained of ongoing importance, imparting to these children a sense of identity not just as orphans, but as war orphans and sufferers for the Parliamentarian cause. Imogen is a researcher and Leverhulme early career fellow in the Centre for Arts, Memory, and Communities at Coventry University. She has particular research interests in memory, post-conflict societies, and the social and cultural history of early modern Britain. She has published articles in Historical Research, Northern History, and several edited collections. Her first book, Recollection in the Republics: Memories of the British Civil Wars in England, 1649-1659, will be published next year by Oxford University Press. Further Reading Steve Hindle, On the Parish?: Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c. 1550-1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Andrew Hopper, ‘‘To condole with me on the Commonwealth’s loss’: The Widows and Orphans of Parliament’s Military Commanders’, in David Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds.), Battle-scarred: Mortality, Medical Care, and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018). Ralph A. Houlbrooke, The English Family, 1450-1700 (London: Longman, 1984). James Marten, ed., Children and War: A Historical Anthology (New York: New York University Press, 2002). Jeremy Seabrook, Orphans: A History (London: Hurst and Company, 2018).
Petitions and Reparations: Elizabeth Poyer and Charles II
When King Charles II returned, somewhat unexpectedly, to the throne in 1660, he faced a deluge of petitions and entreaties from men and women who had been loyal to him and his father during the dark days of the civil wars. These petitioners hoped that the change in the political weather would bring them recognition and reward for their services. Many of these petitions were from ex-servicemen and widows of royalist soldiers, and a significant proportion were deposited among the government papers which now constitute the State Papers held at The National Archives in Kew. The Civil War Petitions team have been ferreting through this huge archive, and among the 250 plus petitions which have been identified as being relevant to the project, are some which form the primary focus for this blog. Here, Lloyd Bowen examines the petitions from Elizabeth Poyer, which throw some fascinating light on female agency in royal petitioning and also on the legacy of the Second Civil War of 1648... Elizabeth Poyer was the widow of John Poyer of Pembroke in south west Wales. John Poyer is the subject of a recent publication by one of the project team, Lloyd Bowen: John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions (University of Wales Press, 2020). Poyer was a low-born glover and merchant but rose to become a prominent Pembroke burgess. Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Thomas Button of Worleton in Glamorgan, a vice-admiral and explorer who spent a perilous winter stranded in Hudson Bay in 1612-13 searching for the North West Passage. The two had married shortly before the civil wars. In October 1641 Poyer was elected mayor of Pembroke. His election coincided with the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion which saw hundreds of Protestant refugees flood into Pembrokeshire. As the political crisis this rebellion helped engender descended into civil war, Poyer became a committed parliamentarian, something rather unusual in Wales during the early 1640s. He held Pembroke as a parliamentary garrison in the teeth of opposition from local gentry royalists. Although Poyer ended up on the winning side of the First Civil War (1642-46), he did not reap the rewards he should have. A difficult and forceful personality, Poyer became the implacable opponent of a group of ex-royalists in Pembrokeshire who had switched sides and become trusted agents of the victorious parliament. Poyer was something of a political moderate and with the rise of radical Independency and the New Model Army from the mid-1640s, he found himself estranged from the cause of which he had once been the local figurehead. By the beginning of 1648, Poyer was organising local resistance to his enemies and this tipped into outright disobedience when he refused to surrender Pembroke Castle to a New Model Army officer. Matters quickly gathered momentum, and soon Poyer was at the head of a substantial local insurrection against parliament. In May 1648 Poyer, along with another ex-parliamentarian officer from the area, Rice Powell, declared their support for King Charles I, who was then in army custody, and looked for assistance from Prince Charles, who was in exile in France. Poyer’s disobedience helped touch off the series of insurrections which has become known as the ‘Second Civil War’, and which saw risings in Essex, Kent, north Wales and the north of England, as well as an invasion by a Scottish ‘Engager’ force. In south Wales, Poyer, Powell and Poyer’s brother-in-law, Rowland Laugharne, were in the vanguard of the insurrection, but they were no match for the New Model Army. Laugharne suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of St Fagans on 8 May 1648 and Poyer retreated behind the stout walls of Pembroke as New Model forces under the command of one Oliver Cromwell besieged the town. After a long and gruelling siege Poyer capitulated in July and was taken into parliament’s custody. The Second Civil War convinced parliament and its supporters of Charles I’s essential duplicity and was crucial in bringing about the king’s execution in January 1649. Other royalist agents were also considered to have innocent blood on their hands, however, and Poyer and his associates soon fell under the crosshairs of parliamentary retributive justice. Poyer, along with Rice Powell and Rowland Laugharne, were brought before a court martial at Whitehall in April 1649. The tribunal found all three guilty and they were sentenced to death. Pleas for clemency (including from Elizabeth Poyer) saw the intervention of Lord General Thomas Fairfax who determined that only one man should die and that this should be determined by lot. The men agreed that an innocent child should have this responsibility and John Poyer was the unlucky individual who received a blank piece of paper rather than one inscribed with the word ‘Life’. He was executed by firing squad at Covent Garden on 25 April 1649. Poyer’s life was thus one of drama and incident but it was also one he shared with his wife Elizabeth and their four young children who grew up in the shadow of war and conflict in Pembroke. Poyer’s demise was thus a domestic tragedy as well as a public fall from grace. As he languished in parliament’s custody in late 1648, Elizabeth’s wrote to her sister-in-law Anne Laugharne (wife of Poyer’s fellow rebel, Rowland), describing the privations she was suffering while waiting for his trial to begin. She was living a perilous existence in London and struggling to pay the rent. She requested a loan of five shillings, adding that without Anne’s support, ‘undoubtedlie else I had starved ... my condicion is most stranglie sad’. Elizabeth Poyer falls from view after her husband’s execution, doubtless keeping a low profile as the wife of a notorious rebel. With the Restoration of monarchy in 1660, however, what had once been a liability now became a public virtue, and Elizabeth was keen to obtain some recompense for her husband’s death and a decade of straitened circumstances. In December 1660, some seven months after Charles II’s return, she presented a petition to the monarch alongside her brother Miles Button, who had been taken prisoner in Pembroke, and also his wife, Florence, who was the daughter of another casualty of the 1648 rising in south Wales, Sir Nicholas Kemys. This detailed petition rehearsed how, in their ‘severall capacityes’, they had suffered in the king’s and his father’s service. For her part, Elizabeth Poyer approached the king in a surprisingly forthright manner. She said she was ‘confident’ that Charles II ‘cannot be unmindefull of the faithfull service her husband ingaged in’ on his behalf in 1648. She then claimed that Charles, as prince, had promised John Poyer that he would satisfy him for monies Poyer disbursed in supporting the royalist cause, and Elizabeth was looking to make good on that undertaking. She produced something of a rhetorical flourish, doubtless hoping that this would add weight to her request, noting that ‘to fill upp the cupp of your petitioner’s misery, her husband was by them [i.e. parliament] murthered in Covent Garden, whereby the inevitable ruine of your petitioner with 4 small children is necessitated without your Majestys gracious comiseracion’. This was quite a bold address which was unusual in the genre of female petitions to the king which tended instead to emphasise qualities of subjection and entreaty. It is possible that mixing her demands with that of her brother and sister-in-law blunted the message of her petition, however. It was probably also unwise for Elizabeth to mention the £8,000 arrears which she claimed her husband was owed for his action in parliament’s service! Perhaps because of these problems, it does not appear that the petition produced any tangible result. After this fruitless attempt, Elizabeth redoubled her efforts in the summer of the following year by petitioning both the king and the (royalist-dominated) Cavalier Parliament for recompense. Her July 1661 petition to Charles II was this time undertaken in her name only. Once more Elizabeth’s forthright voice can be heard even through the conventions of the royal address, beginning with the striking statement that she ‘hath had her deare husband murthered by the hand of a bloody usurper’, as well as her estate and livelihood taken away. She painted a sorry picture of her and her four children being ‘exposed for these many yeares to extreame hardshipp and misery’. While it was standard practice to emphasise, and even exaggerate, one’s suffering in a document of this kind, Elizabeth’s petition has the kinds of language and detail which suggest that she and her children had indeed suffered serious privations. Elizabeth described how she was forced to be 200 miles from her children, who were in Pembrokeshire, to seek relief, and ‘to this end (for the space of 22 monthes and upward) hath walked upp and downe heere [London] destitute and unpittyed … Soe that she may truly cry out noe sorrow nor trouble can be like hers’. This did indeed set up a pitiable image which Elizabeth then boldly juxtaposed with Charles’s, as yet, unfulfilled, promises to her husband in 1648: yet when your petitioner considers what your majestys encouragements and gracious promises were to her husband, and how meltingly your royall heart hath seemed to compassionate her condicion upon all addresses to your majestie. And observing how some supplyants [supplicants] like her selfe (lesse miserable shee is sure, perhaps lesse deserving too) have beene aboundantly supplyed by your royall bounty) your petitioner cannot but be much comforted and still wayte, not daring soe farr to wrong either your excellent Majestie or herselfes as to thinke that your peticioners condicion of all others can be the least minded by your Majestie because the most suffering and forlorne. This was an unusually candid and direct petition. It set up a clear quid-pro-quo which needed to be honoured in a manner that was uncommon in petitionary addresses to the monarch. There was also the clear sense here that Charles’s honour was involved in this matter, and that his not keeping the promises made to one of his most prominent supporters in 1648 was something of a stain on his regality, particularly as money, gifts and honours had flowed readily to other royal supporters following the king’s return. Although such documents do not give us easy access to Elizabeth’s personality, her petition nonetheless suggests a particularly determined individual who was willing to challenge the king so that she and her family could obtain their due. As with many other petitions gathered by the ‘Civil War Petitions’ project, this document was accompanied by corroboratory material: a certificate attesting to John Poyer’s military services for the Prince in 1648, as well as independent testimony of Elizabeth’s impoverished state. It was signed by prominent participants in the south Wales revolt of 1648, including Poyer’s fellow rebel (and now Member of Parliament) Rowland Laugharne. Despite her efforts, Elizabeth only received a grant of £100 some two years later. Although Charles II may have hoped otherwise, this did not silence the determined Widow Poyer. In 1664 she once again petitioned the king, reminding him how Poyer’s fatal actions in 1648 were ‘warranted by your owne instruction & commission’. She again raised her and her children’s sorry state, for she was now £1,500 in debt ‘in these 15 years languishment since her … husband’s death’, and maintained that ‘shee & her family [will] bee exposed to the streets’, and that she could see no way ‘to get of[f] of the plunging shee is fallen into’ without the king’s help. Elizabeth had become aware of a grant worth £3,000 which concerned the gathering of forfeited recognisances, or promissory bonds, due to the Crown, which she wished to obtain. Effectively, Elizabeth asked to become a kind of royal debt collector. After some discussion in Council, she was indeed granted this office and finally received some reparation for her husband’s death in the royalist cause. Elizabeth Poyer’s story is obviously unique but it demonstrates some characteristics which are common to other widows’ petitions found on the project website. It demonstrates, for example, that Elizabeth was not discouraged by the failure of her initial petition. Many widows showed considerable determination and persistence in petitioning their local quarter sessions as well as the central authorities numerous times in the hope of achieving a favourable result. Elizabeth was also emblematic of other widowed petitioners who emphasised the suffering of themselves and their children – the sorry fate of the latter being a common component of addresses designed to loosen the purse strings of a patriarchal society confronted by a household whose head (and principal breadwinner) was lost because of his loyalty. Yet loyalty was something of an issue with Elizabeth Poyer’s representations too. Her husband had been an active arm of the parliamentary state which fought against Charles I throughout the First Civil War. Although John Poyer had died in the royalist cause, he had only declared for the king a few short months before his capture. There was an ambiguity here which may have caused King Charles II to pause before rewarding the widow of such a prominent ‘turncoat’. It was perhaps to combat these questions of loyalty and faithfulness that Elizabeth Poyer’s petitions were so strikingly forthright in their declarations of her husband’s efforts on behalf of Prince Charles (now Charles II) and his father. John Poyer may have been late in joining the royalists but his sacrifice in the cause was the ultimate one, and the redoubtable Elizabeth was determined to see the debt paid. Further Reading Robert Ashton, Counter-Revolution: The Second Civil War and its Origins, 1646–8 (New Haven and London, 1992). Lloyd Bowen, John Poyer, the Civil Wars in Pembrokeshire and the British Revolutions (Cardiff, 2020). Andrew Hopper, Turncoats and Renegadoes: Changing Sides during the English Civil Wars (Oxford, 2012). Brian Weiser, ‘Access and Petitioning during the Reign of Charles II’, in Eveline Cruickshanks (ed.), The Stuart Courts (Stroud, 2003), pp. 203-13.
Representing Disability in Shakespeare’s World – The ESRC Festival of Social Science
The ESRC Festival of Social Science is an annual celebration of social sciences, which will take place in 2020 on 7-15 November across the UK. In light of the coronavirus pandemic, this year FoSS will be an all-digital event and, as every year, will provide fascinating insights into leading social science research and how it influences our lives. In the afternoon of Monday, 9 November, a FREE event created in collaboration between the Civil War Petitions Project and the Royal Shakespeare Company will explore social representations and attitudes towards disability in the 17th century and today. Using insights from history and disability studies, this event will draw from Shakespearean England to explore social representations and attitudes toward disability in the context of military life, then and today. It will feature a brief talk by Professor Andrew Hopper to introduce a video produced by actors from the RSC and two freelance actors with disabilities. The production includes a series of video monologues of extracts from Shakespeare’s plays, as well as dramatised petitions that survive from wounded soldiers applying for the first state military pensions during Shakespeare’s day and the years immediately afterwards. Some of these will be drawn from the Civil War Petitions project. Although most petitions in the production (as in the archives) will concentrate on physical injuries, the soldiers’ and their communities’ struggles with emotional and mental difficulties as a result of war will also be evident. The video outputs and recited petitions will be accompanied by discussion from experts including an academic from the Shakespeare Institute, early modern historians, disability studies scholars, representatives from arts and military organisations, and the actors themselves. In doing so, insights and critical reflection on contemporary representation and attitudes toward disability, as well as equality and social support for those with disability, will be provided. As well as providing illuminating and entertaining dramatization of petitions to the non-expert audience, we hope that this event will create fruitful discussion about the various similarities between difficulties people with disabilities faced then and continue facing today when applying for help, and how the attitudes have (or have not) changed over the centuries. Therefore, as well as providing some commentary from the aforementioned event participants, the audience at the event will also be invited to participate in this discussion. The tickets for this FREE event are now available. These can be acquired via this Eventbrite page here. If you are unable to access this link, please copy and paste this address into your browser: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/representing-disability-in-shakespeares-world-tickets-121856029665 . The video production is directed by Hal Chambers and edited by Assad Zaman. Actors featured in this production are Ben Caplan, Philippa Cole, Andrew French, Amanda Hadingue, Greg Haiste, Vicky Hall, Avita Jay, Dyfrig Morris and Guy Rhys.
Injuries and Inspections: Ex-Servicemen and the Military Welfare of the Civil Wars
The traces of the maimed ex-servicemen chronicled by the “Civil War Petitions” project are textual. They come in the form of petitions and certificates from individuals submitted to local and sometimes central authorities testifying to their service in the armies of parliament or the king and to the wounds and injuries they suffered in that service. This evidence can lead us to assume a process that was essentially bureaucratic, an exercise in submitting and scrutinising pieces of paper. In no small measure this is indeed true – and thankfully so, for if not we would have no project and little evidence of the human cost of the civil wars! – however, our focus on the bureaucracy of war relief can obscure the nature and significance of another important element in the process: the physical presence of the petitioner before those they petitioned and the testimony of their own broken bodies which they offered up as evidence of the veracity of the narratives presented in their petitions. This is, of course, a non-textual process and, as such, it is difficult to document and has often been overlooked. However, as Lloyd Bowen reveals, there are enough scattered references to piece together something of the embodied presence which lay behind the petitioning process... The petitions for relief at the core of our project were often written by scribes and third parties in a world where illiteracy was common. However, the presentation of these petitions to local justices of the peace and their quarter sessions would often, if not usually, be undertaken by the petitioner themselves. There was an established precedent in the administering of local military relief that injured ex-servicemen should attend the quarter sessions to present their petitions and even to receive their pensions. The wording of the major legislation of 1647 and 1662 concerning maimed soldiers drew on the Elizabethan precedent which envisaged the soldier ‘repair[ing]’ to local justices with their certificates of service; the justices would then ‘examin[e] … the truth’ of the matter and decide whether relief would be given. In a process deeply concerned with the veracity and authenticity of the narrative of service and injury being told to the authorities, and detailed in the petitions they received, the physical presence of the petitioner was a further means of validating and corroborating the petitioner’s service and the nature of the wounds they had suffered. The soldier’s presence was seen as a way of distinguishing between deserving servicemen and ‘counterfeits’ who sought to deceive. Although it is difficult to be certain how commonplace the practice was, in some jurisdictions it is clear that the bench even expected pensioners to attend each sessions to receive their quarterly allowances as well as being present at the delivery of their initial petition. This led to grumbling by some that their pension was being used up in travelling to the peripatetic sessions rather than in supporting their domestic needs. In Yorkshire’s North Riding in 1659, the sessions ordered that the treasurer was not to pay any pensions to lame soldiers but only those who appeared personally or sent in a certificate proving that they were unable to attend. In Durham in the mid-1670s, meanwhile, the local sessions passed a resolution which allowed pensioners to send in certificates of their inabilities if they could not attend personally which presumably had been the expectation to this point. In some areas proxies were allowed to receive pensioners’ payments and some interesting evidence of this practice comes from the Welsh county of Denbighshire. Here several petitioners provided warrants authorising others to collect pensions on their behalf. In 1673 David Lewis of Denbigh, for example, drafted a warrant complete with his seal which sanctioned his friend Owen Thomas to receive his pension of three pounds a year ‘in my name & for my use as if I weare my selfe p[er]sonally p[re]sent’. Fascinatingly, the treasurers’ accounts for his county also reveal that one war widow, Margaret Dod, was entrusted to collect the pensions on behalf of claimants in Holt, while the pensioner David Lloyd did the same service for his fellow ex-servicemen in Dynhynlle, Ruabon. Dod and Lloyd were evidently providing something of a local service, saving their neighbours the trouble of attending the sessions in person and presumably receiving some kind of reward in return. The Denbighshire accounts also show that family members such as wives and daughters routinely collected their husbands’ and fathers’ pensions from the quarter sessions in the early 1660s and perhaps later also. We can find traces of the process of presenting the petition in person in the marginal annotations made on various petitions submitted to the Cheshire quarter sessions, particularly during the period of parliamentarian rule in the 1640s and 1650s. On a number of soldiers’ petitions the sessions clerk has noted a brief and dismissive ‘absent’ and these petitions were almost all, as far as we can ascertain, unsuccessful. Evidently the petitioner had not attended the sessions and, as a result, their petition was deemed unreliable or insufficient without further and corroboration. Sometimes, however, a petitioner could send a proxy on their behalf to present their petition. This was the case with Thomas Berkhead in Sussex who noted in his petition to the sessions that ‘my wife hath come purposely about this busines’. Although there may have been good reason for disabled ex-servicemen not being able to attend the sessions meeting, presence with the petition seems to have been expected. Petitioners themselves sometimes referred to the process of appearing before the court to give visible testimony of their sufferings and injuries. Ex-servicemen such as Mawrice Parry in Denbighshire in the summer of 1660, for example, referred to the fact that at the siege of Nantwich in January 1644 he was ‘shott and greevouslye wounded in his wrist, soe that thereby he quite lost the vse of his right hand (as may appeare)’. His fellow Denbighshire royalist Edward Morris nearly two decades later provided an impressive litany of wounds received in King Charles’s service at Reading and Donnington Castle whereby he ‘is become maihmed and hath lost the vse of most of his limnes as by inspection and search of yo[u]r petitioners body it may fully appe[ar] to yo[u]r worshipps’. The phrase ‘as may appear’ occurs in a number of petitions from other jurisdictions too and does indeed seem to refer to the physical display of wounds and injuries before the justices. Such displays were seen to offer unarguable evidence of service but also of hardship and need. The Norfolk sessions of October 1655, for example, described how William Lacocke, an ex-soldier, ‘shewed this Court that his wounds are broken out’, and that he had requested a certificate for travelling to the hospital at the Savoy in London where he hoped to receive expert treatment. After examining his injuries, Lacocke’s request was granted. The evidence of soldiers’ wounds could be given even greater weight and authority by expert testimony such as that of medical practitioners. In 1644 John Barrett, a Gloucestershire corporal, described to his military commander Edward Massey seven wounds he had received to his head as well as a serious injury to his elbow and another to his hand ‘as Mr Caradine the cyerrugion [surgeon] affirmeth’. Caradine was probably known personally to Massey and the implication was that he could confirm the origin of the wounds and thus the legitimacy of Barrett’s request for relief. In Essex in 1657 a barber surgeon, Thomas Cosin, provided a supporting certificate for the stalwart parliamentary soldier and persistent petitioner, William Gray of Braintree. Gray had only received partial success with an earlier application which had been supported by his superior officer and so he evidently believed that medical testimony would help him gain a better outcome. Cosin’s certificate described to the justices how Gray had approached him ‘to take a viue of his hurtes that weare ocaisioned by his service’ in parliament’s army. He affirmed that Gray was ‘very much debilitated in his limbs’, including one leg which ‘hath been brocken into many peeces which hath ocaisioned a great imbisillety in that parte’. He added that he would be willing to justify all this to be true before the justices if they required it. He could not, of course, provide a forensic narrative of the wounds which described exactly how and when they had been received. However, Cosin was presumably considered (by Gray at least) a medical practitioner of sufficient good standing with the parliamentary authorities that his expert opinion carried some weight in their assessment of his application for relief. He did indeed receive some extra monies but needed a further application before he received a pension. This kind of surveillance of ex-soldiers and their injuries by the local authorities also extended to periodic reviews of those receiving pensions with a view to weeding out recipients who were considered unworthy, disloyal or insufficiently disabled and indigent. In Staffordshire in 1652, for example, the local justices were faced with an increased burden of military relief occasioned by the Second Civil Wars and Scottish invasion of 1648 as well as the continued fighting in Scotland and Ireland. As a result, and in the hope of winnowing out the undeserving, they ordered that the local justices should call the county's maimed soldiers before them ‘to viewe the wounds and maimes of everie particular soldier’, as well as scrutinising their supporting certificates. This was necessary, they claimed, because a number of soldiers ‘under pretence of being maimed having received but light wounds are able in bodie’ and thus continued to work while also receiving military relief. The transition from the parliamentarian to the royalist system in the early 1660s was a particularly important moment in such re-evaluations and surveys of county pensioners. In the autumn of 1661, for example, the Devonshire bench required all those in receipt of pensions to present themselves before the court so that two surgeons, appointed by the justices, could examine their injuries. In 1663 the court again asked a local surgeon to examine the pensioners in the county lists and to ‘certifye … their disabilityes thereby & whether soe much maymed as to make them fitt to receive [their] pention as maymed souldiers’. In 1664 the Cheshire bench ordered a similar census of the pensioners ‘to review their maymes & reexamine when & where they were maymed & whether constant in their loyalty’, with the aim of reducing the current burden of the pension scheme on county taxpayers so that ‘ye vnqualified persons [be] struck off’. Those ‘vnqualified’ after the Restoration, of course, included those ex-parliamentarians who had previously been receiving pensions. The Welsh counties of Denbighshire and Breconshire ordered similar reviews in the 1670s. Several ex-servicemen subsequently complained that they had been made aware too late of the requirement to attend the quarter sessions and that they had, as a consequence, been struck unfairly out of the pensioners list. Perhaps the most striking evidence of this kind of intimate review of pensioners and their politicised injuries comes from Caernarvonshire. The document in question survives among the local sessions papers and, once again, comes from the transition from parliamentarian to royalist rule in the early 1660s. It is not known who compiled this submission but it was a response to an order from the bench of justices for a view of ex-soldiers. This had come after a deluge of petitions from royalist servicemen had been received by the court. Thirty-two men were enumerated along with brief descriptions of their disabilities and injuries. Some of those described in this list were old soldiers from the time of King James or even Queen Elizabeth, but most had been civil war servicemen. John Ellis of Llanbeblig was described as having been shot in the king’s service but this was only considered a ‘slight wound’, while John Williams of Beddgelert was hurt in the leg and thigh at Naseby with what was assessed as ‘a great wound’. Gunshot injuries could be particularly gruesome and debilitating. David Owen of Conway, for example, was described as having been ‘shott under the eie very dangerously & the bullett remaines vnder the eare’, while Simon ap William Lewis of Llanbeblig was ‘shott vnder the eare & out att the choppe’. The intimate nature of such an ‘inspection’ of potential pensioners is indicated by the case of Ellis Evans of Penmorfa who had been ‘shott in his privie members & other places of the body very dangerous’. Such evidence, then, shows how the petitions and certificates on our website are the textual survivals of a system which also often demanded the embodied presence and physical inspection of ex-servicemen. Their civil war injuries were not simply wounds to be recounted abstractly in paper but were also physical proofs which sometimes had to be displayed publicly as testimonies of service and suffering. These fleeting glimpses of our petitioners bearing their shattered bodies for assessment by the authorities make for uncomfortable reading. They are reminders, however, of the real historical figures, in often desperate straits, who struggled to survive let alone prosper in the aftermath of this bloody civil conflict. Further Reading Stewart Beale, ‘Military Welfare in the Midland Counties during and after the British Civil Wars, 1642–c.1700’, Midland History, 45 (2020), pp. 18–35. Charles Carlton, Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638–1651 (London and New York, 1992). Ismini Pells, ‘Reassessing Frontline Medical Practitioners of the British Civil Wars in the Context of the Seventeenth-Century Medical World’, Historical Journal, 62 (2019), pp. 399-425. Hannah Worthen, ‘The Administration of Military Welfare in Kent, 1642-79’, in David J. Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare in the British Civil Wars (Manchester, 2018), pp. 174–91.
The Last Soldiers of the English Civil Wars
‘They say I am the last of them alive; they say I am the last roundhead’, begins the fictitious Blandford Candy in the novel The Last Roundhead by Jemahl Evans (Holland House Books, 2015). The real identity of the last surviving civil-war soldier will probably never be known for sure. The last surviving member of the Long Parliament was Sir John Holland, who sat for Castle Rising in Norfolk, and died aged 97 on 19 January 1701. We now know that quite a few of the war’s officers and soldiers outlived Sir John. Richard Cromwell, the former Lord Protector died in 1712, yet his military service is uncertain and may have been limited to a brief spell in Fairfax’s lifeguard in 1647. Mark Stoyle considers the last surviving field officer in the army of Charles I was Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Neville who also died in 1712. The last Welsh royalist officer that we know of who received a pension was Captain Richard Vaughan of Llanwrst, Denbighshire. A previous blog by Lloyd Bowen showed that Vaughan was blinded having been shot in the face, but found support among the poor knights of Windsor during the 1660s Vaughan’s portrait was drawn by Sir Peter Lely at a St George’s Day ceremony at Windsor. He did not die until 5 June 1700, aged eighty. But what of the rank and file who made up the armies on both sides? ‘Welsh Thomas’, conscripted for the royalists in Carmarthen, claimed in 1717 to have been captured at the siege of Gloucester in 1643 [Mark Stoyle, ‘Memories of the Maimed: the Testimony of Charles I’s Former Soldiers, 1660-1730’, History, 88:290 (2003), p. 207]. In counties where good records survive, our team’s research is demonstrating that significant numbers of maimed and wounded soldiers survived into the eighteenth century... Some historians have considered that the last civil-war soldier was William Walker of Ribchester, Lancashire (1613–1736). Walker fought for Charles I at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, where he was wounded in the arm and had two horses shot under him [Charles Carlton, Going to the Wars (London, 1994), p. 349; Peter Young and Wilfrid Emberton, The Cavalier Army: Its Organisation and Everyday Life (1974), p. 144. Walker has a portrait in the University of Leicester's Fairclough Collection, but not digitised yet]. Yet no petition for a pension survives for him among the Lancashire quarter sessions. Walker attained some contemporary fame by appearing as the subject of a portrait by Gerhard Bockman and a later mezzotint by John Slack. The Ribchester parish register has a burial entry for 16 January 1736 which states ‘William Walker, a Cavalier aged 122’ [Lancashire Archives, PR2905/1/2]. The Anglican clergyman-antiquarian, Thomas Dunham Whitaker noted in 1823, that ‘At the Church of Ribchester was interred, in all probability, the last survivor of all who had borne arms in the war between Charles I and the Parliament … How long he retained his faculties I do not know; if nearly to the close of his life, he must have been a living chronicle, extremely interesting and curious’ [T.D. Whitaker, History of Richmondshire (London, 1823), vol. ii. p. 465]. The claim that Walker lived 122 years is suspicious as it far exceeds the Guinness World Record of 116 years for the world’s oldest ever man. But it remains possible that Walker had fought at Edgehill and was around 110 when he died. Another, more believable claimant is William Hiseland of Wiltshire (1620–1733). His tomb’s inscription at the burial ground of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea stated that he was born on 6 August 1620 and died aged 112 on 7 February 1733. Hiseland claimed to have fought at Edgehill in 1642 and after a long career in soldiering, with the Royal Scots at Malplaquet, despite being 89 years old in 1709. Hiseland was rewarded with a place at Chelsea Hospital until he became an out-pensioner following his marriage at the age of 100 in 1720. He sat for a portrait by George Alsop in 1730, in which a sturdy appearance is strikingly fashioned for a man of 110 years of age. Claims of advanced age were difficult to verify for certain in this period, because of the relative absence of portable, authoritative life documents. Individuals outside the parish of their birth might make exaggerated claims without the fear that sceptics would travel to their home parish to consult the baptism register. Indeed, evidence from our petitions suggests that people of advanced years did not always know their precise age. With our material for Wiltshire and Lancashire still to be uploaded, it is currently not yet known if Walker or Hiseland benefitted from county welfare payments because of their civil-war service. It is quite possible they did, because although the 1662 Act to relieve royalist maimed soldiers officially expired in England and Wales in 1679, in many counties collections for them continued. For example, the Thirsk Sessions in Yorkshire, with the advice of the Attorney General, ruled in October 1688 that although the 1662 Act had expired, the Elizabethan Act of 1601 remained in force. This enabled Yorkshiremen to petition well beyond 1700. The last surviving petition for the North Riding of Yorkshire came from Robert Wrigglesworth of Little Thirkleby in April 1701. Fittingly, he claimed to have served in Sir Robert Strickland’s regiment, the first regiment to be raised for the King, in May 1642. Our last surviving petition from the West Riding of Yorkshire came from John Genn, who claimed in January 1709 that he was 82 years old and had served under Sir Francis Fane, royalist governor of Lincoln. Genn’s petition is among eight surviving petitions from the West Riding that all date after 1700. Six of these petitioners resided in Genn’s home parish of Aston, just south of Rotherham, and two in the neighbouring parish of Treeton. The marked concentration of these last petitions in two adjacent parishes, and the supporting signatures and marks beneath them suggest the influence of a local network of parish officers and neighbours pushing these elderly men forward. Three of their petitions were signed by Samuel Trickett, rector of Aston from 1694 to 1712. Trickett used the parish register to certify that one of them, Francis Petty, was baptised in 1623, making him old enough to have served in the wars. The clustering of these last petitions may also have been due to Aston having been the seat of Sir Francis Fane (d. 1680), under whom four of the petitioners claimed to have served. There is a strong likelihood that these eight men were all known to each other, suggesting something of a network of veterans similar to the Devon tinners discussed by Mark Stoyle. These men were sharing their memories of civil war and receiving community support over 60 years later. One wonders how many similar networks elsewhere in the country persisted into the eighteenth century. The first of these eight men was Francis Jenkin of Aston, who received a pension of £2 per annum after he petitioned the Sheffield Sessions on 16 October 1700. He claimed to be ‘now Four score years ould & upwards’, and that he was a ‘souldier und[e]r King Charles ye first’ under the command of Major ‘Gore’ (possibly Major William Gower) at the siege of Hull in 1643. In 1701 two more petitioners from Aston, Anthony Davy and Richard Kelke, both secured pensions of £2 per annum having petitioned the sessions at Pontefract and Doncaster respectively. Davy claimed to be 84 years old. Both men claimed to have been among Fane’s Doncaster garrison before their capture by Lord Fairfax at the Battle of Selby on 11 April 1644, and that they both suffered imprisonment thereafter in ‘Reasor’ (likely Wressle Castle). George Inkersell of Aston secured a pension of £3 per annum when he petitioned the Barnsley Sessions on 5 October 1704 that he was aged ‘ninety years & upwards’, and that he had been no further than ¼ mile from home in two years, reassuring the justices ‘my time cannot be long in this World.’ His petition was endorsed by Trickett, along with the churchwardens and a string of neighbours. In January 1706, William Walker in neighbouring Treeton secured a pension having petitioned the Doncaster Sessions that he had been wounded serving under the command of the martyred royalists John Morris and Michael Blackburne in the Pontefract Castle garrison during 1648–9. William Hilton, also of Treeton secured a pension of £3 per annum in August 1708, having petitioned the Rotherham Sessions that he too had served under Fane as a soldier ‘to his sacred Majesty K[ing] Charles the Martyr of ever blessed Memorie.’ An even later petition survives in Northumberland: that of Henry Norton of ‘Turfe House’ in the hamlet of Steel, in Hexham parish, who, aged ‘near upon 90 years’, petitioned the midsummer sessions at Hexham in July 1710. In his petition, Henry claimed to have borne arms for King Charles I ‘of blessed memory’. Henry’s three sons had left to join ‘the Queen’s service’, and were probably fighting in Europe under the command of the Duke of Marlborough. This, he claimed, had left him in ‘miserable and deplorable circumstances’, wanting friends, and utterly dependent upon ‘the charitable help of well-disposed persons’. For good measure, he added that he had always ‘been of a good life & Conversation & a True Member of ye high Church of England’. This was a calculated appeal to the Tory JPs on the county bench and it was successful. On 12 July 1710, the JPs ordered the churchwardens and overseers of Hexham to pay Norton eight pence per week towards his maintenance. This was comparable to a pension of nearly £2 per year, and worth the effort to obtain in order to enable Norton to survive in his last years. We do not know how much longer Norton lived, or whether he witnessed the recruitment of 200 Northumbrians from his home neighbourhood for the Jacobite forces in 1715. Less than four miles northeast from Norton’s home was Dilston Hall, the seat of James Radcliffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater (1689-1716). A grandson of Charles II, Derwentwater was beheaded on Tower Hill on 24 February 1716 for leading the Northumbrian rebels and was buried in the family chapel at Dilston. The last civil-war pensioner for whom we currently hold firm evidence was William Leaver the elder, a pinmaker of Aylesbury. William petitioned the Buckinghamshire Sessions at Aylesbury in July 1704, that he had been in receipt of a maimed soldier’s pension of £2 per annum for several years. A separate memorandum confirmed William had served ‘his most sacred Maj[es]tie King Charles the First’. William requested successfully that his pension be augmented to £4 per annum because he was ‘fallen almost Blind whereby he is rendered very helpless poor’. He signed a receipt with his mark on 27 July 1704. His pension was increased further; by 1716 William had been receiving £6 per annum for several years. In October 1716 his pension was enlarged to £8 per annum. William petitioned again, in July 1717, for a further augmentation now that he was ‘aged 100 yeares or thereabouts’, and ‘quite blind’. The Justices raised him to £10 per annum. In January 1718 his pension was increased yet again to £12 per annum, on account that he was ‘altogether unable & uncapable to help or support himself without the assistance & helpe of some person or persons to Assist him.’ The clerk of the peace noted the special nature of this payment, at a time when ‘the number of Pentioners of this County have encreased’. William did not collect this for long because on 24 April 1718 the county treasurer was ordered to pay William’s son John Leaver 40 shillings for the costs John had incurred in his father’s burial. The last known war widow of the Civil Wars to receive money from a county treasurer was Mary, widow of William Hobbs of Chepping Wycombe. She was awarded 10 shillings as the last quarter of her late husband’s pension by the Buckingham Sessions on 11 April 1700, despite there being no legal basis by then that entitled her to relief. In 1694 William had been awarded a pension of £2 per annum for his service under Charles I, and his later service in the Anglo-Dutch Wars, with his petition supported by a certificate from the mayor of Chepping Wycombe. A comparison with the American Civil Wars reveals an even longer period over which military pensions were provided. The last widow of an American Civil War veteran was Gertrude Janeway (1909–2003). She married John Janeway, a veteran of the 14th Illinois Cavalry in 1927 and received a pension of $70 every two months until her death. Janeway was outlived by Irene Triplett of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, the last pensioner of the American Civil Wars. Irene was born in 1930, the daughter of Union veteran Moses Triplett, who died in 1938, having married a woman 50 years younger. Irene passed away on 31 May 2020, having long collected a pension of $73 per month from the Department for Veterans Affairs because of her father’s civil-war service. Individuals such as Janeway and Triplett were the inspiration behind the prize-winning novel by Allan Gurganus, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, first published in 1989. The individuals in this blog should remind us that the human costs and living consequences of civil war do not end when treaties are signed, republics are forged or kings are restored. They remain with us generations, even centuries later.